What's so entrepreneurial about the United States?

The answer is behind the numbers.

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Dawn Rivers Baker
Dawn Rivers Baker
Statistics are funny things. It is often possible to find numbers to support any argument you care to make and even to find one set of "official" numbers that can contradict what another set of "official" numbers seems to say.

For example, earlier this week, Dr. Scott Shane used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to make a forceful numerical argument that we're not as entrepreneurial in the United States as we think. Entrepreneurship, he said, is actually declining.

However, data from different federal sources seem to indicate that things aren't quite as cut and dried as that.

According to data from the SBA's Office of Advocacy, the population of U.S. firms increased at a much faster rate than the growth in the population of U.S. humans in the decade from 1997 through 2006. Just in 2006, U.S. population growth was estimated at 0.9 percent, while the number of U.S. firms increased at almost twice that rate (1.6 percent).

But really, if we are going to consider the matter of whether the United States is becoming more or less entrepreneurial, all of this is beside the point.

Compared to other places on the planet, the United States is very forgiving, culturally, of risk and even of failure.

That is what makes us entrepreneurial, not the numbers.

Dawn Rivers Baker is the award-winning journalist behind The MicroEnterprise Journal, the online business news weekly that covers politics and policy, the economy, and research for and about microbusinesses. Baker also blogs at the Journal Blog.

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