The Returns to Entrepreneurship: Evidence from Matched Person-firm Data

Mirjam Van Praag, Arvid Raknerud*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Empirical studies show low pecuniary returns as a result of switching from wage employment to entrepreneurship. We reconsider the pecuniary gains attributable to this switching by using an event study design and a variety of identifying assumptions aimed at obtaining robust estimates of causal effects. An earnings equation is estimated on data covering the whole Norwegian population of individuals matched to the entire population of firms established in the period 2002–2013. We find unambiguous evidence that the average returns to entrepreneurship are negative for individuals entering entrepreneurship through self-employment and positive, but modest for incorporated startups. The positive returns to incorporated entrepreneurship comes at the cost of much higher income risk: incorporated entrepreneurs experience an increase in the standard deviation of log earnings growth of almost 75% compared to remaining in wage employment. While there is a huge gender gap in entrepreneurship rates, we find no significant difference between men and women in the average returns to entrepreneurship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorkplace Productivity and Management Practices
EditorsSolomon W. Polachek, Konstantinos Tatsiramos, Giovanni Russo, Gijs van Houten
Number of pages32
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Publication date2022
ISBN (Print)9781801176750
ISBN (Electronic)9781801176743, 9781801176767
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesResearch in Labor Economics

Bibliographical note

Published online: 7 December 2021.


  • Returns to entrepreneurship
  • Earnings distribution
  • Matched person-firm data
  • Incorporated entrepreneurs
  • Self-employment
  • Event study design
  • Gender gap

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