Entrepreneurship among Baby Boomers

Entrepreneurship among Baby Boomers:
Recent Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study


Annamaria Lusardi, GFLEC
Dimitris Christelis,
University of Naples Federico II, CSEF, CEPAR and NETSPAR
Carlo de Bassa Scheresberg,

This research has been supported by a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

About the Research

The evolution of entrepreneurship among Baby Boomers (i.e., those born between 1946 and 1964) is an important topic in economic research and public policy, as Boomers have proven to be prolific entrepreneurs. More generally, self-employment among older individuals is becoming increasingly prevalent. Entrepreneurship and self-employment provide alternatives to continued work later in life: they offer a degree of flexibility not found in salaried jobs as well as a more gradual path toward retirement. Our analysis aims to highlight factors that affect Boomers’ entrepreneurial endeavors in order to help policy makers and other organizations that work with entrepreneurs to promote effective policy change.

Summary of Our Findings

  • Boomer entrepreneurs differ from the older population as a whole. They vary along personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, education, physical and mental health, cognition, and economic resources.
  • The composition of entrepreneurs is changing over time: Baby Boomer entrepreneurs are older, more racially diverse, better educated, and in worse health than entrepreneurs of comparable age observed in the 1998 HRS wave.
  • Wealth has a relatively small impact on entrepreneurship. This finding suggests funding opportunities may be favorable for a broad range of older entrepreneurs. Experience-related factors, such as extended networks or professionalism, may be more important than wealth in determining an individual’s ability to create and sustain a business.
  • Entrepreneurship is not exclusive to any particular segment of the population. Self-employment is available to a progressively diverse pool of people, plausibly due to:
    • Internet—which allows for rapid gathering, processing, and dissemination of information
    • Medical advances—which allow people with physical limitations and health problems to function well in a professional capacity
    • Expansion of Outsourcingwhich enables older workers to expand their business while preserving time and monetary resources

What's the Big Idea in Financial Literacy?

Director Lusardi discusses research findings on "Entrepreneurship among Baby Boomers" in a GFLEC video series.

FinLit Talks

Experts share their insights on entrepreneurship among Baby Boomers.

Self-Employment Transitions among Older Americans
Michael Giandrea, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Self-employment for Underserved Older Adults
Donna V.S. Ortega, AARP Foundation

Government Supported Entrepreneurship Programs
Giuseppe Gramigna, Small Business Administration

An Investigation on Health Impact of Self-Employment
Ting Zhang, University of Baltimore

Entrepreneurship among Baby Boomers Conference

On November 2, 2016, GFLEC’s Entrepreneurship among Baby Boomers Conference brought together experts from the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, AARP, and more to share their latest work on self-employment among older adults.