2019 - 2022

Principal Investigator: Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D.

Funded by: Anonymous

In the U.S., entrepreneurship is often viewed as a way to promote opportunity and to move upward in society. However, no research studies have verified whether that is an accurate vision, and to what extent it applies to different populations. This project, part of the Women in the Workplace Research Initiative, examines whether self-employment and entrepreneurship act as a possible pathway to social mobility for women and their children, taking an intersectional approach that considers minority status, socio-economic class, and ethnicity. 

One of the issues hampering nationally representative research in this area has been the lack of access to large longitudinal data sets that cover both the employer-employee relationship as well as any transitions into self-employment and/or entrepreneurship over long periods of time. 

This project makes significant headway in data development and introduces innovative approaches for combining large-scale administrative data to answer these questions. 


This study will utilize the confidential, restricted access Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data housed in the U.S. Census Bureau, along with the Integrated Longitudinal Business Database, as well as the 2000 Decennial Census and the American Community Surveys from 2001-2017.

In the first stage of the project, a large data platform will be created to characterize the work histories of men and women, including quarterly data on all of their job spells in regular wage employment as well as any spells of self-employment. Data on parents and their children will be used to follow intergenerational economic mobility.


The results of this study will be valuable in understanding the role of self-employment and/or entrepreneurship as a career choice for women, especially among minority and low-income populations. Given the recent surge of interest in female entrepreneurship, the results of this study will be useful for the development of entrepreneurship policies in the U.S. Findings will provide helpful statistics and novel findings for policy discussion and development, especially given its emphasis on both economy-wide entrepreneurship as well as detailed analysis of ethnic/minority self-employment and employer entrepreneurship.

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