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Why Are There So Few Black Entrepreneurs?

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  • Bruce D. Meyer

Abstract

Black entrepreneurship has been unsuccessful in the U.S. The fraction of employed blacks that work in their own businesses is about one-third that of whites. Other measures of success such as net income, number of employees, and form of organization show large differences between blacks and whites. This paper examines explanations for these differences, particularly focusing on the frequently cited economic explanations of liquidity constraints and consumer discrimination. Liquidity constraints are examined by estimating logit equations for who is self-employed in a cross-section and who becomes self-employed in a panel. These estimates suggest that net worth is not an important determinant of the racial differences in self-employment. An examination of small business starting capital indicates that little capital is needed to start most business and beginning entrepreneurs do not usually borrow. Examining the industrial distribution of black and white businesses, I do not find a greater relative representation of blacks in industries requiring less starting capital. I also examine if black businesses are relatively more common in industries where white customers more frequently patronize black businesses. Little support is found for this hypothesis. I conclude that cultural differences may explain black/white differences in self-employment, but this explanation requires further study.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce D. Meyer, 1990. "Why Are There So Few Black Entrepreneurs?," NBER Working Papers 3537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3537
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    1. Coate, Stephen & Tennyson, Sharon, 1992. "Labor Market Discrimination, Imperfect Information and Self Employment," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(2), pages 272-288, April.
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    6. Borjas, George J & Bronars, Stephen G, 1989. "Consumer Discrimination and Self-employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 581-605, June.
    7. Timothy Bates, 1989. "The changing nature of minority business: A comparative analysis of asian, nonminority, and black-owned businesses," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 25-42, September.
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    10. Evans, David S & Leighton, Linda S, 1989. "Some Empirical Aspects of Entrepreneurship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 519-535, June.
    11. Timothy Bates, 1985. "Impact of preferential procurement policies on minority-owned businesses," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 51-65, June.
    12. George J. Borjas, 1986. "The Self-Employment Experience of Immigrants," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(4), pages 485-506.
    13. Rees, Hedley & Shah, Anup, 1986. "An Empirical Analysis of Self-employment in the U.K," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 1(1), pages 95-108, January.
    14. Alfred R Nucci, 1989. "The Characteristics of Business Owners (CBO) Database," Working Papers 89-9, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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