Boomers drive entrepreneurial trend

Economists know that entrepreneurship will drive the economy back to health, but many people may be surprised to learn that the baby boom generation is behind the wheel.

A study by the Kauffman Foundation entitled, "The Coming Entrepreneurship Boom," indicates the United States might be on the cusp of an entrepreneurship boom--not in spite of an aging population but because of it. These factors include the shifting age distribution of the country, the continued decline of lifetime employment, the experience and tacit knowledge such employees carry with them, and the effects of the 2008-2009 recession on established sectors of the economy.

Contrary to popularly held assumptions, it turns out that over the past decade or so, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-64 age group. The 20-34 age bracket, meanwhile, which is usually identified with swashbuckling and risk-taking youth (think Facebook and Google), has the lowest. Perhaps most surprising, this disparity occurred in the 11 years around the dot-com boom -- when the young entrepreneurial upstart became a cultural icon.

Other key findings include:

  • While people under 30 have historically jumped from job to job, the most striking development today has been the deep drop in the incidence of "lifetime" jobs among men over age 50. Long-term employment has fallen dramatically for people ages 35-64 over the past 50 years.
  • With longer life expectancies and greater health in later life, older generations may continue to start new firms -- or mentor young entrepreneurs.
  • Since the first Internet-era recession, transaction costs and barriers to entry have fallen for entrepreneurs of every age.
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