skip to main content
Entrepreneurial Ambition Wanes Among Nonwhite Students in U.S.

Entrepreneurial Ambition Wanes Among Nonwhite Students in U.S.

by Justin McCarthy and Justin Bibb
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 42% plan to start a business, down from 54% in 2011
  • 12-point drop among nonwhites; little change among whites
  • Entrepreneurial ambition remains flat nationally

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Entrepreneurial ambition has receded among racial and ethnic minority students in grades five through 12 in the U.S., according to the latest findings from the Gallup-HOPE Index. Though a majority of nonwhite students (54%) said in 2011 that they intended to start their own business, this figure fell to a new low of 42% in 2016.

Graph 1

These results are based on telephone surveys conducted Sept. 12-Nov. 7, 2016, with a nationally representative sample of 1,006 U.S. students in grades five to 12. While yearly fluctuations among nonwhite students may reflect smaller sample sizes among this group, the drop in entrepreneurial ambition between 2011 and 2016 is significant.

Nonwhite students' entrepreneurial ambition once outpaced white students' to a significant degree, but this edge has nearly evaporated. The 12-percentage-point drop since 2011 in the proportion of nonwhite students saying they plan to start a business puts them on par with white students. While nonwhite students have become less likely to have future business plans, white students' intentions have been steady over the past six years, between 37% and 40%.

However, nonwhite students (50%) remain somewhat more likely than white students (40%) to say they want to invent something that will change the world. This has been the case since the index began tracking the issue in 2011.

Graph 2

Less Than Half of U.S. Students Plan to Start a Business, Invent Something

Overall, about four in 10 U.S. students in grades five to 12 express the intent to start a business (41%). They are slightly more likely (45%) to say they will invent "something that changes the world." These figures have been fairly stable since 2011.

Graph 3

Bottom Line

Grooming the next generation of U.S. entrepreneurs is crucial to addressing the country's slowdown in GDP growth. Less than half of U.S. students in grades five to 12 plan to invent something revolutionary, and they are less likely to say they plan to start their own business.

Among minority students -- a group that once exuded entrepreneurial ambition -- intentions of starting a business sagged last year, whereas those among white students remained stable. Nonwhite students remain more likely to have plans of inventing something, which perhaps could draw out their erstwhile entrepreneurial spirit. The country's long-term economic competitiveness depends on maximizing entrepreneurial energy nationwide and addressing the decline in ambition among nonwhite students. Minority entrepreneurs already face unique challenges that, paired with reduced enthusiasm, could have a larger effect on U.S. entrepreneurship potential more broadly.

U.S. schools' approach to business education is critical to boosting entrepreneurial aspirations among students nationally, and the Gallup-HOPE Index highlights some key opportunities, such as internships and youth-run businesses, that are highly underused as a means of teaching business skills.

To learn more about the entrepreneurial aspirations and energy of U.S. students, read "The 2016 Gallup-HOPE Index: Quantifying the Economic Energy of America's Youth."

Survey Methods

The 2016 Gallup-HOPE Index findings are based on results from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,006 U.S. students in grades five through 12. Telephone interviews were conducted Sept. 12-Nov. 7, 2016. The sampling frame of this study came from the Gallup Daily tracking survey. The frame included respondents who had consented to be re-contacted and indicated that they had children younger than 18. These respondents were re-contacted and screened for school-aged children in grades five through 12 in the household. Permissions were then requested from qualified parents or guardians for their students in grades five through 12 to participate in the Operation HOPE survey. The frame was stratified by race/ethnicity, education and household income, and proportionate selection was used.

For results based on the total sample of students in grades five through 12 (n=1,006), one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±3.1 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.

Learn more about how the Gallup-HOPE Index works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030