Are Millennials More Entrepreneurial? One Question. Different Data. Different Answers.

Posted On November 22, 2016

It’s interesting how you can come to different conclusions about an issue simply by which set of statistics you choose to examine.

Take, for instance, the issue of millennial entrepreneurship.

A Fortune article in February hailed the generation as “millennipreneurs,” noting that millennials had launched about twice as many businesses as Baby Boomers at the same age. Citing the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report, Fortune noted that millennial entrepreneurs were also starting earlier, starting their first businesses at age 27, as compared to 35 for Boomer entrepreneurs.

But Forbes contributor Natalie Bacon cites research from the Kauffman Foundation, which finds that young people ages 20-34 made up less than 23 percent of the nation’s entrepreneurs in 2013, compared to nearly 35 percent in 1996.

Atlantic, meanwhile, called millennial entrepreneurship a “myth,” noting that a Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data found the number of people under 30 who own a business has fallen 65 percent since the 1980s.

So which is it? Are they the millennipreneurs or, as Economic Innovation Group co-founder John Lettieri called them, a group that is “on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in recent history?”

It depends on how you judge it – and which set of numbers you use.

It’s not terribly surprising that millennials are starting more businesses at a younger age than Baby Boomers did at the same age. Baby Boomers came up at a time when it was still common to work for one company your entire career, and that job security made working for big companies more attractive than in today’s era of frequent layoffs. They also came up well before the digital age of tech startups and e-commerce, an age where starting a business may take less in terms of overhead than ever before.

The statistics Forbes and Atlantic, meanwhile, are focused on the number of millennial entrepreneurs – and not, as with Fortune’s data, the number of businesses started by millennials. The BNP Paribas report found that millennial entrepreneur typically launched nearly eight companies compared to only three or four for Baby Boomers at that age.

So if we’re taking all these numbers at face value, it appears that while there may be fewer millennial entrepreneurs than previous generations, they are starting more businesses at younger ages than Baby Boomers did.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Generation Y / Millennials, Work