This post examines whether entrepreneurs are influenced by their fathers, mothers, spouses, and siblings. The General Social Survey (GSS) reports statistics on those who are self-employed. The data show that, overall, the percentage of respondents who indicated they were self-employed has not changed perceptibly between 1972 and 2018. Figure 1, below, shows that the percent who reported they were self-employed hovered around an average of 11.4% across all years.
Perhaps the greatest entrepreneurial influence on a respondent comes from his father. If a respondent is self-employed, 44.19% of the time his father is also self-employed. If the respondent works for someone else, his father is self-employed only 26.79% of the time. Whether a respondent’s father is self-employed is a statistically significant factor in determining whether the respondent, himself, is self-employed.
The sheer number of respondents who claim their father is self-employed, however, is declining rather precipitously. Figure 2, below, shows whether a respondent’s father was self-employed between 1972 and 2018. In 1972, 37% of respondents said their father was self-employed. By 2018, only 24% of respondents said their father was self employed.
Mothers have a statistically significant impact on whether a respondent is self-employed or not, but the magnitude of the influence is smaller than a father’s influence. If a respondent is self-employed, 18.71% of the time his mother is self-employed as well. If the respondent is not self-employed, 10.61% of the time his mother is self-employed. A mother’s influence, therefore, is a statistically significant factor in whether or not her children are self-employed or not.
Between 1994 and 2018, the amount of respondents who reported their mother was self-employed dropped slightly. In 1994, 12.7% reported their mothers were self-employed. By 2018, the percentage dropped to 10.23 percent–for a difference of approximately 2.5%.
It seems that respondents who are self-employed tend to partner with spouses who are also self-employed as well. If a respondent is self-employed, 30.13% of the time the spouse is self-employed, too. If a respondent works for someone else, 10.28% of the time the spouse is self-employed. Therefore, respondents who are self-employed tend to partner with self-employed spouses. This tendency is statistically significant.
The percentage of spouses who are self-employed has not changed perceptibly between 1972 and 2018. Figure 4, below, shows the trend line across the years for percent who report their spouses are self-employed. In 1972, 11.7% of respondents reported their spouses are self-employed. In 2018, 11.9% of respondents had self-employed spouses. Therefore, the percent of spouses who are self-employed has remained constant.
The influence of siblings on a respondents likelihood of being an entrepreneur is also statistically significant. If a respondent is self-employed, 21.29% of the time his siblings are also self-employed. If a respondent works for someone else, 13.20% of the time the sibling is self-employed. The difference is statistically significant.
Finally, if a respondent is self-employed, 19.25% of the time their first job was self-employed. If a respondent worked for someone else, 2.52% of the time their first job was self-employed. Therefore, those who started out being self-employed have a greater chance that they remain entrepreneurs.
This analysis shows that entrepreneurship is contagious, in that a person’s family influences whether or not they are self-employed. Fathers and spouses tend to have the greatest significance on whether a respondent will become an entrepreneur. They are followed by mothers and siblings. This suggests that entrepreneurs are shaped by the people that surround them.