October 2007

IZA DP No. 3130: Entrepreneurship in the United States

published in: Annals of Finance, 2009, 5 (3-4), 361-396

In this paper I examine changes in self-employment that have occurred since the early 1980s in the United States. It is a companion paper to a recent equivalent paper relating to the UK. Data on random samples of twenty million US workers are examined taken from the Basic Monthly files of the CPS (BMCPS), the 2000 Census and the 2005 American Community Survey (ACS). In contrast to the official definition of self-employment which simply counts the numbers of unincorporated self-employed, we also include the incorporated self-employed who are paid wages and salaries. The paper presents evidence on trends in self-employment for the US as a whole as well as in construction. Construction is particularly important given that it accounts for a fifth of all self-employment and self-employment rates are roughly double the national rates. It is also important given the existence of public sector procurement programs that primarily exist in construction that have the intended purpose of assisting firms owned by women and minorities. I document the fact that self-employment rates of white women and minorities in comparison to those of white males have increased in construction and elsewhere as have self-employment earnings. Despite this substantial disparities remain. I also find evidence of discrimination in the small business credit market. Firms owned by minorities in general and blacks in particular are much more likely to have their loans denied and pay higher interest than is the case for white males.