Small Business Economics

, 37:465 | Cite as

Only the lonely? The influence of the spouse on the transition to self-employment

  • Berkay Özcan


Previous research showed that married individuals are overrepresented among the self-employed. Few studies proposed skill-spillover between the spouses within the marriage as an explanation. This paper deviates from the previous research by exploring different relationship contexts (e.g., cohabitation, being married or divorced, a widow(er) or single) and the role of partner influences under these contexts. It argues that the interaction between gender and relationship status implies variation in not only resources but also constraints, and hence sorts individuals into two different types of self-employment: entrepreneurial self-employment (i.e., incorporated business) and unincorporated self-employment. Using “Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) 1965–2005” data, results of the competing risk models show that marital status contributes to both types of self-employment transitions, especially for men, but also for women. Cohabitation is a less supportive context for entrepreneurship and a partner’s self-employment experience increases only women’s likelihood of entering into entrepreneurship. These results suggest that skill-spillover between partners might be context dependent and only in one direction (from men to women).


Entrepreneurship Gender Occupation choice Family Marriage Cohabitation 

JEL Classifications




I am grateful to Gosta Esping-Andersen, Fabrizio Bernardi, Juho Harkonen, Tim Futing Liao, Mario Macis, Vida Maralani, Serden Ozcan, Katherine Terrell and two anonymous referees for comments that improved earlier versions of this paper. I also thank participants of the research conference on “Female Entrepreneurship: Constraints and Opportunities” hosted by the World Bank in collaboration with the International Policy Center at the Gerald R. Ford School, University of Michigan, in Washington DC on 2–3 June, 2009.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social PolicyThe London School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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