"Peak Dream" - The Death Of The Young American Entrepreneur

Despite the anecdotal evidence plastered daily on financial media channels of a scruffy, young, upstart working from his parents' basement and creating the next great social, mobile, analytics, cloud app worth a cajillion dollars, from nothing but tween eyeballs, the sad reality is the 'American Dream' for young Americans is over. As The WSJ reports, the share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has reached a 24-year-low, according to new data reflecting a generation struggling to find a spot in the workforce. While there are numerous possible reasons, one professors worries about the systemic aspect as "the fear of failure is the measure we should be most concerned about."



Overall, the U.S. “startup rate”—new firms as a portion of all firms—fell by nearly half between 1978 and 2011, and as The Wall Street Journal reports, the share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has reached a 24-year-low, according to new data...

Roughly 3.6% of households headed by adults younger than 30 owned stakes in private companies, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of recently released Federal Reserve data from 2013. That compares with 10.6% in 1989—when the central bank began collecting standard data on Americans’ incomes and net worth—and 6.1% in 2010.


The Journal’s findings run counter to the widely held stereotype of 20-somethings as entrepreneurial risk-takers.




The proportion of young adults who start a business each month dropped in 2013 to its lowest level in at least 17 years, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo., nonprofit that focuses on entrepreneurship. People ages 20 to 34 accounted for 22.7% of new entrepreneurs in 2013, down from 26.4% in 2003, it found.


The plunge in business ownership captured in the Fed survey is an “interesting and worrisome finding,” said John Davis, faculty chair of the Families in Business Program at Harvard Business School. If the trend continues, he said, the U.S. economy could become less vibrant.


“We need startups not only for employment, but also for ideas,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s part of the vitality of this country to have people starting new businesses and trying new things.”

Costs are one part of it...

The costs of operating many types of small businesses have come down in the past decade, with the greater use of technologies that reduce labor costs. But young entrepreneurs face formidable financial hurdles.


The average net worth of households under 30 has fallen 48% since 2007 to $44,354. More than half of 18-to-29-year-olds reported one or more financial problems in the past year, a 2014 Pew Research Center survey found.


Their poorer financial condition hurts young graduates’ ability to tap their own savings, draw equity from a home or obtain bank loans to cover their startup or ongoing business costs, said Karen Mills, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and a former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which sponsors programs to help small firms obtain financing.

But there is a bigger concern...

The decline in business ownership among young graduates also reflects a relatively low appetite for risk. Young people have less confidence, said Donna Kelley, a professor at Babson College. In an annual survey she oversees, more than 41% of 25-to-34-year-old Americans who saw an opportunity to start a business said fear of failure would keep them from doing so, up from 23.9% in 2001. “The fear of failure is the measure we should be most concerned about,” she said.

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The core risk-taking backbone of America is being crushed under the weight of student debt, regulation, and short-memories of their parents suffering in the last 2 decades as 'wealth' has been eviscerated twice thanks to Federal reserve boom-bust cycles.

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Why take risks? Why bother, when work is punished?