Despite an almost universally accepted belief outside academia that entrepreneurial activity is a positive driving force in the economy, the accumulated evidence remains largely inconclusive. This article positions the increased interest in entrepreneurship since the 1980s within its historical context and highlights the significant methodological problems with its analysis. Taking these problems into account it reevaluates the performance of entrepreneurial firms in terms of innovation, job creation, economic growth, productivity growth, and happiness to show how both positive and negative interpretations can emerge. A pattern of increasingly positive interpretation is observed as one moves from analysis to policy. To address this bias, the article suggests the single category “entrepreneurial firms” be broken up along a continuum from the large number of economically marginal, undersized, poor performance enterprises to the small number of high performance “gazelles” that drive most positive impact on the economy. This would allow a more realistic evaluation of the impact of entrepreneurs by avoiding a composition fallacy that assigns the benefits of entrepreneurship to the average firm.
Nightingale, P. & Coad, A. (2014). Muppets and gazelles: political and methodological biases in entrepreneurship research. Industrial and Corporate Change, 23(1), 113-143. DOI: 10.1093/icc/dtt057