B3551 - Risky Business Understanding intergenerational persistence in entrepreneurship - 05/06/2020

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Matt Dickson | University of Bath (UK)
Prof. Orietta Marsili
Title of project: 
Risky Business: Understanding intergenerational persistence in entrepreneurship
Proposal summary: 

Entrepreneurship is with good reason viewed as a driver of economic growth, employment creation, and social mobility: in 2018, there were 5.7 million small-medium enterprises in the UK, accounting for 99.9% of all businesses, 60% of employment and 52% of the gross value added in the UK private sector. Of these, 96% were micro-businesses with less than 10 employees (Business Statistics, Standard Note, SN/EP/6152, House of Commons Library, December 2018). In fact, policymakers advocate support to entrepreneurship as a way forward for socioeconomic development at regional and national level, therefore helping these firms to form is key to UK prosperity. Government support for entrepreneurs often takes a macro perspective of intervention through subsidies and infrastructure. There is, however, increasing recognition in the entrepreneurship field that the decision to become an entrepreneur and start new ventures is strongly embedded in the close and personal space surrounding an individual, starting from their family relationships. It is well known that self-employment and business ownership choices are highly persistent across generations: entrepreneurial parents tend to have entrepreneurial children. We know much less, however, about the underlying mechanisms that transmit and shape those choices. This is what our project will address. We will examine the ways in which entrepreneurial parents affect their children’s entrepreneurial preferences and behaviours directly – through being role models and providing advice – and indirectly – through shaping attitudes to risk and uncertainty, and exposing the stresses and wellbeing impacts inherent in starting a business. Our findings will identify new ways in which policy can encourage and nurture entrepreneurialism.

Impact of research: 
Our project emphasises the dual relationship linking the family context and entrepreneurship. On one side, the family can facilitate the emergence of preferences for entrepreneurship in the children by providing the ‘learning space’ in which children observe how entrepreneurs live and operate through the experience of their entrepreneurial parents. On the other side, the family can be the ‘resounding space’ of the successes but also the frustrations of being an entrepreneur, which may lead to the development in the children of negative emotions in association with entrepreneurship. Understanding the complex role of the family in entrepreneurship is of interest for different constituencies, starting from the public and the entrepreneurial parents more specifically. Thanks to the internet, setting up a business from home has become a choice increasingly available to people, parents in particular. Indeed, the Government is committed to making the UK the best place to start and grow a business, with particular initiatives – such as the £1million Women and Broadband Challenge and the ASPIRE fund – aiming to encourage more women to set-up their own businesses. For mothers especially, the decision to become entrepreneur is often motivated by the prospect of achieving a better work-life balance. One of the expected outcomes of this project is to highlight the implications of being an entrepreneurial parent on the wellbeing of their children. Our findings can thus enhance awareness among parents of the implications of their employment choices not only from a business perspective but also more broadly in relation to the impact on the family lifestyle. This can lead to a better understanding of the challenges of achieving a work-life balance and can inform a broader discussion about how to meet and mitigate these challenges. This discussion involves not only entrepreneurial parents as direct subjects, but also policymakers who want to pursue a more holistic approach to entrepreneurship policy, in which the entrepreneur is regarded not only as a driver of change and wealth creation, but also as an individual embedded in a social context of personal relationships. In this type of policy approach, it is key to ask how to support children in families in which there is a risk that the uncertainties of entrepreneurship resonate too loudly. Given the policy relevance of this work for a number of areas, we will engage with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as a primary research user, and also with the Department for Work and Pensions as there are implications for the design of work-related benefits. Another implication of our argument is that entrepreneurship needs a supporting environment that goes beyond the provision of incentives and infrastructure, and which finds its root in the family. Illustrating how entrepreneurial parents can be positive role models that inspire younger generations, helping them to take on board the challenges of an entrepreneurial career, aids understanding of how to create a broader learning environment for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship education mostly takes place in dedicated programmes at universities, generally at Masters level and in Business Schools. Yet the family is the most immediate and personal environment in which children can learn about ‘the way of life of the entrepreneur’. Furthermore, while university entrepreneurship education tends to focus on the business principles underlying the creation of a new venture, a more broadly defined notion of entrepreneurship education involves enabling the development of creative mind-sets and the capacity to embrace uncertainty. Families and schools are likely terrain for this type of learning. From this perspective, our project can inform the discussion about the design and impact of practices for extending entrepreneurship education to children and young people. Indeed, a number of recent initiatives have been implemented in the last five years by the Government with the purpose of promoting entrepreneurship by engaging with young people early on through the education system. Our work will inform these initiatives, with parties involved in this discussion including formal and informal education providers (schools, parents, and charities) as well as government policy-related agencies and the Department for Education.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 1 June, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 June, 2020
Social Science, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Cognitive impairment, Hypertension, Mental health, Obesity, Statistical methods, Blood pressure, BMI, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Offspring, Psychology - personality, Social science, Statistical methods