The goal of this paper is to study the role of unobserved human capital in entrepreneurial choice and its impact on the survival of newly created firms. Our starting point is that, when starting a new business, an entrepreneur's labor market situation (e.g. employed or not) reflects how his human capital may be valuated through salaried labor. This in turn affects the entrepreneurial decision so that, an entrepreneur's human capital should be correlated with the state at which he decided to start a new firm. We illustrate this point with descriptive statistics computed from a survey of French startups. These statistics show that the impact of education on the new firm's survival is most pronounced for firms created by individuals salaried in their preferred branch of activity while it is rather limited if the entrepreneur was in the wrong branch or newly unemployed. In this paper we argue, both theoretically and empirically, that these results may be explained by some unobserved heterogeneity in the entrepreneur's human capital that is correlated both with the initial labor market situation and with some observable measures of human capital such as education or experience. We first present a simple model of entrepreneurial choice that provides predictions about an entrepreneur's actual human capital as a function of human capital observed by the econometrician as well as the individual's state in the labor market when the firm was created. The model allows for some information asymmetry on the labor market as well as other sources of inefficiencies such as incentive problems due to moral hazard. It also allows in a simple way for some dynamic considerations on the part of the entrepreneur regarding potential depreciation of his human capital. We argue that the data may be best explained by a model where employer's information on employee's human capital is sufficiently poor and where there is a strong concern about human capital depreciation for those with a high level of observed human capital. We then run some duration analysis on our data on new firms' survival by estimating a proportional hazard Cox model with partial maximum likelihood. The estimation results are coherent with the descriptive statistics on the impact of education on survival for different initial states of the entrepreneur. This econometric analysis will be completed with additional regressions that allow for correcting for unobserved heterogeneity in order to evaluate its magnitude and nature. We have done some preliminary work where unobserved heterogeneity is modelled through random effects (frailties) for different subgroups of individuals according to education level and experience that have a gamma distribution. Our preliminary results show that there is significant unobserved heterogeneity but the estimates of the frailties are consistent with the results obtained by running a standard Cox estimation.
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- labour market
- human capital valuation
- information asymmetries
- duration of the new firm