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Is entrepreneurship contagious? (And a bull case for urban clustering)

The research isn’t absolutely conclusive, but Matt Clancy — who is an assistant teaching professor of economics at Iowa State — makes an interesting case (over here) about entrepreneurship being mostly contagious.

The article cites a long list of studies that have more or less found that being around entrepreneurs can have a measurable positive effect on whether you yourself might also become one.

There is evidence to suggest that this is true whether you’re a scientist working with someone who has previously commercialized a piece of research, a community with entrepreneurial neighbors, a student with an entrepreneurial mentor, or a child with parents who have started their own business(es).

According to one Swedish study, the children of entrepreneurs are about 12 percentage points more likely to start a business at some point in their life compared to people with non-entrepreneur parents.

But as I said at the beginning of this post, the research isn’t entirely conclusive. Could a proclivity for risk and independence be instead genetic? Could it be that entrepreneur types simply seek out other entrepreneurs to hang out with? Perhaps these associations aren’t causal. Maybe.

But my gut tells me that there has got to be some contagiousness. Here’s an excerpt from Matt’s article:

…being around someone who has done it plants the seed in your mind that it’s a possibility, something you really could do. For most of the studies, the population exposed to entrepreneurship is a population that wouldn’t normally consider it. For them, exposure has a measurable positive effect.

What this once again tells me is that there’s immeasurable value in people clustering in cities, local communities, offices, coffee shops, and many other spaces. It’s a hard (probably impossible) thing to replace. And it could be the difference between taking initiative and starting a business, and not doing that.

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