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The Value of Autonomy: Evidence from the Self-Employed in 23 Countries


  • Matthias Benz
  • Bruno S. Frey


The self-employed are substantially more satisfied with their work than employed persons. We document this relationship for 23 countries and show that the higher job satisfaction can directly be attributed to the greater autonomy that self-employed persons enjoy. "Being your own boss" seems to provide non-pecuniary benefits from work that point to the existence of procedural utility: autonomy is valued beyond outcomes as a good decision-making procedure. The results hold not only for Western European, North American and former communist Eastern European countries, but largely also for countries with a non-western cultural background.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Benz & Bruno S. Frey, "undated". "The Value of Autonomy: Evidence from the Self-Employed in 23 Countries," IEW - Working Papers 173, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:173

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blanchflower, David G., 2000. "Self-employment in OECD countries," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(5), pages 471-505, September.
    2. Blanchflower, David G & Oswald, Andrew J, 1998. "What Makes an Entrepreneur?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 26-60, January.
    3. Bruno Frey & Matthias Benz & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Introducing Procedural Utility: Not Only What, but Also How Matters," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 160(3), pages 377-377, September.
    4. repec:ner:ucllon: is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Matthias Benz & Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Being Independent is a Great Thing: Subjective Evaluations of Self-Employment and Hierarchy," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(298), pages 362-383, May.
    6. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    7. Barton H. Hamilton, 2000. "Does Entrepreneurship Pay? An Empirical Analysis of the Returns to Self-Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 604-631, June.
    8. Finnie, Ross & Laporte, Christine & Rivard, Maud-Catherine, 2002. "Setting up Shop: Self-employment Amongst Canadian College and University Graduates," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2002183e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    9. Daiji Kawaguchi, 2002. "Compensating Wage Differentials among Self-Employed Workers:Evidence from Job Satisfaction Scores," ISER Discussion Paper 0568, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    10. Tobias J. Moskowitz & Annette Vissing-Jørgensen, 2002. "The Returns to Entrepreneurial Investment: A Private Equity Premium Puzzle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 745-778, September.
    11. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1999. "Informal Authority in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 56-73, April.
    12. Tobias J. Moskowitz & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "The Returns to Entrepreneurial Investment: A Private Equity Premium Puzzle?," NBER Working Papers 8876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    self-employment; autonomy; job satisfaction; procedural utility;

    JEL classification:

    • D00 - Microeconomics - - General - - - General
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J81 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Working Conditions
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

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