Senior entrepreneurship following unemployment: a social identity theory perspective

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Abstract

This article applies social identity theory to examine how identification with social groups shapes the entrepreneurial endeavours of individuals aged 50 or over who start businesses when unemployed or under threat of redundancy. Understanding what drives older individuals to start a business as an alternative to unemployment has important policy implications: governments are interested in promoting self-employment to reduce benefits dependence among older individuals for whom finding employment in the traditional labour market can be difficult. Our exploratory analysis is based on data collected in 21 personal interviews with senior entrepreneurs in the UK who received support from an organisation dedicated to foster enterprising activity among older unemployed people. Our findings suggest that income levels beyond making ends meet is not an important motive for starting a business among this demographic group. Instead, our data highlight the relevance of non-monetary self-rewards—such as pursuit of autonomy, self-realisation, and wanting to feel active, useful and valuable—for senior entrepreneurs who start businesses under adverse conditions. This finding resonates with the European Commission’s policy of promoting ‘active ageing’. Our analysis indicates non-monetary objectives should be included in any conceptualisation of self-interest in an entrepreneurial context.

Original languageEnglish
JournalREVIEW OF MANAGERIAL SCIENCE
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 May 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Ageing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Qualitative methods
  • Senior entrepreneurship
  • Social identity
  • Unemployment

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