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Risky business: Understanding intergenerational persistence in entrepreneurship

A project critically examining the ways in which entrepreneurial parents affect their children’s entrepreneurial preferences.



Project status

In progress


1 Apr 2022 to 30 Mar 2025

About the project

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.

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