Bankruptcy, Incorporation and the Nature of Entrepreneurial Risk
Entrepreneurship is risky; entrepreneurs forgo wages and invest their time and resources into a business with large potential gains, but uninsurable risks. It is vital to know the extent of these risks, and the insurance available against them, in order to assess corporate tax and personal bankruptcy reforms. We document that incorporated entrepreneurs operate larger businesses, accumulate more wealth, and are on average more productive than unincorporated entrepreneurs. We embed the U.S. bankruptcy and incorporation legal systems in a quantitative macroeconomic theory of occupation, incorporation, and default choices that accounts for the cross-sectional facts. In the model, as in the U.S., incorporation provides insurance via limited liability beyond personal bankruptcy exemptions, at the expense of administrative burdens and an endogenous interest rate premium. Our model suggests that capital embodied shocks are important entrepreneurial risks. A calibrated economy in which each unit of installed capital entails a small probability (1.0%) of a catastrophic shock (full destruction of capital) is able to account for the data along multiple untargeted dimensions. We find the welfare gains for entrepreneurs from eliminating investment risk are huge (5.9% increase in annual consumption). And, the welfare loss from removing limited liability to be large.
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