Entrepreneur: just a nice word for 'underemployed'?

Entrepreneur: just a nice word for 'underemployed'?

Why are we reluctant entrepreneurs? Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/big-max-power/5056775644/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Big Max Power (Flickr)</a>
Why are we reluctant entrepreneurs? Photo: Big Max Power (Flickr)

Entrepreneurship is an American value—we constantly look up to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. But let’s keep its benefits in perspective.

In GOOD’s post “How I Became My Own Mentor in a Freelance Economy,” Courtney Martin explains how “freelance work is becoming the new 9-to-5.” With nearly half of people aged 18 to 24 underemployed, more Americans are expected to become self-employed, freelancers, or “accidental entrepreneurs” than ever before. Why? Simply put, we lack other options.

Her article is interesting in light of the recent love affair nonprofits have for social enterprises. According to Martin, entrepreneurship can be rewarding, but comes with stress. The same is true in the developing world—poor people often become entrepreneurs because they have no other options.

In Poor Economics, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo write, “the poor don’t see becoming an entrepreneur as something to aspire to.” Rather, the MIT researchers find that the poor want stable employment that can be found in government jobs or large, private companies.

If so few of us want to run businesses ourselves, why are we upholding it as a solution for the world's poor?

Curated news and insights about innovative, market-driven solutions to poverty explored through news, commentary and discussion.

Learn more »

Global Envision newsletter