The Missing Millennial Entrepreneurs

By Economist Daniel Wilmoth, PhD

Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook 12 years ago, on February 4, 2004, while still in college. He dropped out, moved the company to Silicon Valley, and, in 2012, held an initial offering of stock to the public.

In 2015, at age 31, he was among the richest people in the world, with wealth of over $40 billion.

Zuckerberg is a member of the Millennial generation, those born from 1982 to 2000. The spectacular entrepreneurial successes of some Millennials create the impression of a generation in which entrepreneurship is thriving. However, a new report from the Office of Advocacy reveals a different reality. In 2014, less than 2 percent of Millennials reported self-employment, compared with 7.6 percent for Generation X (born 1963 to 1981) and 8.3 percent for Baby Boomers (born 1944 to 1962).

Low Millennial self-employment is caused partly by their relative youth. However, as the figure below demonstrates, after accounting for age, self-employment among Millennials is still lower than for the two preceding generations. At age 30, less than 4 percent of Millennials reported self-employment in their primary job in the previous year, compared with 5.4 percent for Generation X and 6.7 percent for Baby Boomers.

Age and recent self-employment

millenialchart

Source: Calculations by the author using data from the Current Population Survey by the US Census Bureau

The full report, The Missing Millennial Entrepreneurs, will be released Thursday. This report is the first in a series on trends in entrepreneurship. New businesses are key sources of jobs and innovation, and entrepreneurship is therefore closely related to economic growth. The next report will focus on entrepreneurs who have reached the traditional ages of retirement, a group sometimes called “encore entrepreneurs.”

Although entrepreneurship has been relatively rare among Millennials, some, like Mark Zuckerberg, have already achieved spectacular success. For others, success may be waiting in the future. Several resources for aspiring entrepreneurs are available from the U.S. Small Business Administration at https://www.sba.gov/thinking-about-starting.

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