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Young Entrepreneurs Endangered? Not!

Sometimes, you have to look between the numbers to find the answers — especially when it comes to recent reports claiming under-30 entrepreneurship is waning.


January 22, 2015

By Dr. Roy Carriker

A Jan. 3 Wall Street Journal article raises the alarm that young entrepreneurs are an endangered species. Analyzing U.S. Labor Department data, the Journal found a 24-year low in the percentage of households headed by young adults (30 and under) owning stakes in private companies. The percentage of such households slid downward from 10.6 percent in 1989, to 6.1 percent in 2010 and 3.6 percent in 2013.

Why this matters:

If you are considering entrepreneurship as a career option, the Wall Street Journal article could indeed be alarming. However, I would suggest that a lot more investigation is required to accept the percentage of households headed by adults 30 and under who own a stake in a private company as a solid determinant parameter of entrepreneurship amongst the young. As just one example, what about all the self-employed entrepreneurs?

The Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit focusing on entrepreneurship and quoted in this column on occasion, reports people aged 20 to 24 accounted for 22.7 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2013, down from 26.4 percent a decade earlier. A slight decrease to be sure, but not precipitous, and certainly explainable by virtue of issues surrounding access to entrepreneurial capital reverberating from the 2008 global financial crisis. Indeed, it is remarkable that youth entrepreneurship has held up so well given the average net worth of under-30 households has fallen 48 percent to $44,354 since 2007 as reported in 2014 by the Pew Research Center.

In light of several recent surveys reported here indicating 41-46 percent of recent college graduates feel they did not need a college degree to land their post-graduation job, entrepreneurship remains a very important career option to consider.

Says Carriker: An entrepreneur friend of mine once told me: "Learn, earn, return." After 55 years of learning and earning around the world, I am returning.

Roy Carriker is a Teaching Professor and Director of Technology Entrepreneurship in the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship. He is also a School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems senior executive in residence.

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