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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper

Does Self-Employment Measure Entrepreneurship? Evidence from Great Britain


Research on entrepreneurship often uses information on self-employment to proxy for business creation and innovative behaviour. However, little evidence has been collected on the link between these measures. In this paper, we use data from the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) combined with data from the Business Structure Database (BSD), and the Community Innovation Survey (CIS) to study the relation between self-employment, business creation and innovation. In order to do so, we aggregate individual and firm-level data at the Travel-to-Work Area (TTWA) and investigate how the incidence of self-employment correlates with the density of business start-ups and innovative firms. Our results show that in urban areas a higher incidence of self-employment positively and strongly correlates with more business creation and innovation, but this is not true for rural areas. Further analysis suggests that this urban/rural divide is related to lack of employment opportunities in rural areas, which might push some workers into self-employment as a last resort option.


Giulia Faggio and Olmo Silva

22 May 2012     Paper Number SERCDP0109

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This SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper is published under the centre's Urban programme.