NPR logo Maybe Entrepreneurship Can Be Taught

Maybe Entrepreneurship Can Be Taught

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Ask Americans if their school education made them interested in becoming an entrepreneur, and 51% will say it did, a new poll from Gallup shows. But ask around among Europeans, and only a quarter say that it did.

So what is it about U.S. education that might encourage budding business leaders?

Partly, U.S. society overall values entrepreneurship highly, typically more than European societies, people seem to generally agree.

Take Andreas Goeldi, a Swiss-born Internet entrepreneur based in Cambridge, Mass., who has written about the issue on his blog. He describes what he sees as a cult of entrepreneurship in the U.S., compared to a higher degree of risk aversion in Europe. Goeldi argues that Europeans attach so much shame to failing at starting a business they tend not to.

Also important: people in the U.S. pay a great deal for education, particularly higher education, generally more than their counterparts in Europe. About 40% of Americans have achieved some level of higher education, the OECD reports, compared to 32% in the United Kingdom, 27% in France, and 24% in Germany.

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Perhaps people who attend university— especially if they have paid a high cost to do so—  are more likely to credit their education with encouraging interests in all kinds of fields.

There's one very entrepreneurial country where respondents were quick to associate their schooling with entrepreneurship. In China, 57% of respondents said education helped them value entrepreneurship.