World

Few Americans Would Use Cash Windfall to Start a Business

by Anna Manchin

Chinese more likely than Americans, Europeans to invest in business

BRUSSELS -- If they suddenly inherited a large sum of money, those living in the U.S. or highly developed countries in Europe are less likely to say they would use that money to start a business than are those living in less developed countries in the European Union and Chinese cities.

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These findings are from a Flash Eurobarometer study in December 2009 that investigated attitudes toward entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs in the 27 European Union member states, the U.S., 50 Chinese cities, and a handful of other countries.

The same survey found Americans more likely than Europeans or Chinese respondents to see themselves as risk takers, competitive, and confident they can accomplish difficult tasks -- attitudes often ascribed to entrepreneurs. Still, these data suggest Chinese would be more inclined to take action on entrepreneurial projects if presented with a cash windfall. This may reflect the Chinese government's active support of new entrepreneurial ventures through business incubators and free enterprise zones, but these resources are more available to those in the urbanized East than to rural Chinese.

In most countries surveyed, the relative majority would either save the money or use it to buy a house or repay their mortgage. Americans are three times more likely to say they would save the money (48%) than they are to say they would use it to start a business (14%), which may reflect how many small businesses in the U.S. are struggling in the economic climate. Citizens in very highly developed countries in Europe are also more likely to say they would save the money than start a business (32% vs. 11%, respectively).

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However, in less highly developed European economies, people are as likely to say they would save as they are to say they would use the money to start a business (22% vs. 23%, respectively). Chinese respondents are more likely to say they would invest than save (41% vs. 23%).

Bottom Line

Taken together, this suggests that the desire to start businesses may have less to do with the existence of an entrepreneurial mindset and more to do with a business climate that favors small employers and the lack of availability of other employment options. In less advanced economies where the business climate is not as favorable to large employers, people may be more likely to consider starting businesses themselves.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

European Union results are based on interviews conducted Dec. 11-15, 2009, predominantly via telephone, but with some face-to-face interviews as a result of the low fixed-line telephone coverage in certain eastern European countries. Approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, were interviewed in Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. Approximately 500 adults, aged 15 and older, were interviewed in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Sweden. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

U.S. results are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted Dec. 11-23, 2009. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

In China, interviews were conducted with 1,000 randomly selected individuals, aged 15 and older, Dec. 22, 2009, to Jan. 16, 2010, in 50 cities. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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