Ageing and new business creation: the role of subjective age identity

Kautonen, Teemu, Kibler, Ewald, Wainwright, Thomas, Fink, Matthias and Blackburn, Robert (2013) Ageing and new business creation: the role of subjective age identity. In: 36th Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) Annual Conference: Escape Velocity: Entrepreneurship in an Internationalising Environment; 12-13 Nov 2013, Cardiff, U.K.. ISBN 9781900862264


Objectives Ageing populations in developed economies draw increasing attention to the effects of ageing on new business creation. This paper examines individuals’ perceptions of their age in relation to entrepreneurial activity, and how these perceptions impact on intentions to engage in business start-up activities. The paper further investigates the influence of friends and family members on the formation of entrepreneurial age identity. Prior work Prior examinations of age in entrepreneurial contexts have defined it chronologically and treated it, implicitly or explicitly, as an inherent characteristic of individuals that is difficult to influence by policy. This paper builds upon research on subjectively defined age in psychology and marketing, and applies the idea that age is individually perceived and subject to social influences for the first time in an entrepreneurial context. Approach Structural equation modelling is utilised to analyse bespoke survey data on a random sample of 2050 adults (20-64 years) in Austria and Finland. This analysis thus overcomes the typical limitation of entrepreneurial intentions studies of using non-representative convenience samples. We also conducted a follow-up survey to test the predictive relevance of our intention measure: the results show that intention is a highly significant predictor of subsequent actions. Results The results show that perceiving oneself as being of an appropriate age to engage in business start-up activities positively influences an individual’s intention to engage in such activities, particularly in the case of older workers (50-64 years). Furthermore, the analysis demonstrates that the opinions of key social reference groups, in this case family and friends, influence intentions to engage in gestation activities directly and in the case of older workers, also indirectly via subjective age identity. Implications The primary implication for entrepreneurship research is showing that age is not only an inherent characteristic of individuals as implied by its frequent measurement as a chronological variable, but it has an important social dimension to it. This in turn means that age can be influenced by policy, for example through initiatives aimed at fostering the positive economic and enterprising potential of ageing individuals. Value This paper adds to the still nascent literature that specifically deals with the influence of age on entrepreneurial activity. It is the first one to treat age as individually perceived and being subject to social influences.

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