Entrepreneurial Beginning, Happy Ending? Entrepreneurship Upon Graduation and Lifetime Earnings

Adrián L. Mérida, Vera Rocha

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Recent studies comparing lifetime earnings of individuals with and without entrepreneurial experience have chal-lenged the previously stylized fact that entrepreneurship yields lower and riskier earnings. We contribute to the ex-tant understanding of the relationship between entrepreneurial experience and lifetime earnings in three ways. First, we analyze the role of the timing of entrepreneurship within a professional career by exploring whether entrepreneur-ship influences lifetime earnings differently when it happens at the beginning of the career rather than later. Second, we add to the topic of the value of experimenting in entrepreneurship by considering the relationship between the duration of the entrepreneurial spell and lifetime earnings. Last, we focus exclusively on university graduates, which represent a part of the population with high entrepreneurial potential. Using register data from the population of Denmark, we compare lifetime earnings of graduates who start their careers as entrepreneurs (“early entrepreneurs”), graduates who start as wage-employees but become entrepreneurs later in their careers (“late entrepreneurs”), and graduates who never become entrepreneurs (“never entrepreneurs”). Thanks to the richness of our data, we are able to track the careers and earnings of such graduates during their first 15 years in the labor market. Results from matched samples show an interesting picture. Consistent with recent research, a premium for individuals who ever become entrepreneurs is also present in our sample. Importantly, we find that early entrepreneurs are better-off than never entrepreneurs when they switch quickly to wage-employment after a brief experimentation period in entrepre-neurship, or when they are able to run long-lived successful firms. However, attempting entrepreneurship later in the career seems to be the best alternative in terms of risk-reward. Several mechanisms driving these results as well as their potential implications are further discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2018: Improving Lives - Chicago, United States
Duration: 10 Aug 201814 Aug 2018
Conference number: 78


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Cite this