One common version of the American Dream — especially in the last fifty years or so — involves growing up to be one’s own boss. The world today is dominated by companies like Amazon and Microsoft, which were the fruit of entrepreneurial zeal as tech was beginning to explode.
According to Entrepreneur magazine, that zeal doesn’t seem to be taking hold in the current crop of American youth.
The article cites a study by Junior Achievement U.S.A. that found fewer than thirty percent have “the same level of enthusiasm for starting a business” as their parents do for them. Quite the opposite. Almost ninety percent of the parents surveyed like the idea of their kids starting a business.
The head of Junior Achievement U.S.A. thinks the fact that “today’s young people grew up in the shadow of the financial crisis” may have made them skittish about risk in the working world. That certainly seems plausible, especially if their parents were business owners who hit extremely hard times as a result of the crisis.
The author of the Entrepreneur article, however, offers a differing opinion that I think may be closer to the truth. He says he doesn’t “think American society or media touts the benefits of entrepreneurship.” He grew up learning about the success stories of Ray Croc and Walt Disney, which lit an entrepreneurial fire in him.
My personal experience definitely informed my views. One of my grandfathers and eventually both of my parents all ended up owning successful businesses. They not only provided examples, but employment, as I worked for all three. That may have reinforced the desire to work for myself.
The lack of positive motivation seems to me to be more likely for the “meh” attitude kids have about being entrepreneurs. While today’s young people are no doubt more well informed than I was as a kid, it’s still a stretch to think that teenagers right now are letting financial news from almost a decade ago weigh heavily on their long term plans. I grew up in the shadow of Watergate, for example, but wasn’t pondering it a lot when I hit high school and college and began to develop political views.
Progressive “anti-wealth” rhetoric probably doesn’t help either. There is no telling how much of it kids are being exposed to in elementary and high school, but we all know that the far left holds sway on the majority of American college campuses. Listening to the constant vilification of successful people by politicians and professors would no doubt skew a young person’s view of taking a leap to become wealthy.
Entrepreneur recently posted an article about entrepreneurs being the “key” to bringing back some parts of America that have been “left behind.” That’s a hopeful premise, but tempered by the news of the study.
Thankfully, there are still a lot of groups out there trying to instill entrepreneurial fervor in young children. With any luck, the current malaise will be brief, and even more kids will want to shake things up on their own.