Small Business Economics

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 579–594 | Cite as

Ageing and entrepreneurial preferences

Original Research


Previous research on age and entrepreneurship assumed homogeneity and downplayed age-related differences in the motives and aims underlying enterprising behaviour. We argue that the heterogeneity of entrepreneurship influences how the level of entrepreneurial activity varies with age. Using a sample of 2,566 respondents from 27 European countries, we show that entrepreneurial activity increases almost linearly with age for individuals who prefer to only employ themselves (self-employers), whereas it increases up to a critical threshold age (late 40s) and decreases thereafter for those who aspire to hire workers (owner-managers). Age has a considerably smaller effect on entrepreneurial behaviour for those who do not prefer self-employment but are pushed into it by lack of alternative employment opportunities (reluctant entrepreneurs). Our results question the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurial activity declines with age and suggest that effective responses to demographic changes require policy makers to pay close attention to the heterogeneity of entrepreneurial preferences.


Age Entrepreneurship Self-employment Preference Demographic change 

JEL Classifications

J14 J24 M13 L26 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for International Management PracticeAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Whitman School of ManagementSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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