Feature

The myth of U.S. entrepreneurs

Americans are actually “pretty unexceptional” when it comes to building businesses.

Jordan Weissmann
TheAtlantic.com

Americans like to think we live in the world’s most entrepreneurial country, said Jordan Weissmann. But we are actually “pretty unexceptional” when it comes to building businesses. Our start-up rate is lower than those of most other developed countries, including Sweden, Israel, and Brazil. And U.S. start-ups “don’t appear to play a uniquely large role in job creation.” In 2008, new companies accounted for about 2 percent of all U.S. jobs, putting us only in the middle of the pack for developed economies. Where the U.S. does excel is in the creation of many small businesses in which the only employee is the owner—“a very high percentage” of whom say they started their own companies not because of some innovative idea, but “out of necessity” because nobody else would hire them. It is true that our country has a “fairly strong, if weakening, tradition” of launching and nurturing new businesses. But “we don’t have a monopoly on entrepreneurship.” And “many other economies—all with different tax structures, safety nets, and regulatory regimes—seem to be just as exceptional as we are.”

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