Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that social entrepreneurship can support an entrepreneurial society (Estrin, Mickiewicz & Stephan, 2013; Mair, Marti & Ventresca, 2012), and may thus facilitate a virtuous circle for economic development. In this study, we explore the individual-level characteristics from which this circle originates. In particular, we compare the role of education and gender for commercial and social entrepreneurship, and investigate the moderating effect of the institutional environment on these relationships.

Drawing on career choice theories which highlight the importance of individual values for occupational decisions (Ashby & Schoon, 2010), we suggest that individuals with higher education and females may be relatively more likely to engage in social compared to commercial entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is a career choice particularly consistent with pro- social values, which are more common among the highly educated and women (e.g. Schwartz, 2009; Schwartz & Rubel-Lifschitz, 2009). With strong national constitutional-level institutions in place, entrepreneurial success is to a greater extent due to individual skill and effort rather than arbitrary external circumstances. In such institutional contexts, entrepreneurial entry is likely an increasingly appealing choice for highly educated individuals who can draw on their skills and knowledge acquired through education.

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