Inequality and Entrepreneurial Thresholds

Sarkar S., C. Rufin, J.Haughton (forthcoming), "Inequality and Entrepreneurial Thresholds", Journal of Business Venturing.

We explore the relationship between inequality and entrepreneurial activity. Drawing on cross-sectional data from a largescale survey of the economic conditions of individuals across India, we develop a number of dimensions of inequality to explore empirically how inequality interacts with entrepreneurship, operationalized as self-employment or as employing other people. We find compelling evidence that there are thresholds to becoming self-employed, and even more so to assembling the combinations of resources and personal attributes required to become an employer. Greater inequality leaves more people unable to make the transition to self-employment, leaving casual laboring as the occupation of necessity. At the same time, inequality increases the number of employers in a society, by concentrating resources - particularly land and finance - enough for significant numbers of people to be able to cross this higher threshold. Lastly, greater differentiation into social or religious groups curtails the ability to cross either entrepreneurial threshold, presumably by limiting the extent and benefits of social networks of value for entrepreneurship.