The Young Entrepreneur Stereotype Bites the Dust

While there are plenty of 20-something, ramen-eating entrepreneurs coding into the wee hours of the morning, the demographic with the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity consists of those between the ages of 55 and 64, according to a study released today by the The Kauffman Foundation. The study found that folks in the 20-34 age range were the least likely to start companies. The research built on an earlier study that found that average age of entrepreneurs in the U.S. was 39.

Dane Stangler, senior analyst at the Kauffman Foundation and author of the study, says these trends may continue through the current recession. “Recent economic trends—away from lifetime jobs and toward more and more new companies—will thus gain even greater cultural traction,” he writes. I agree, but I’m curious how much of this entrepreneurial activity among the Baby Boomers (or anyone else, for that matter) is voluntary. A quick look at my contacts shows myriad consultants and small business owners who have hung out their shingle after taking a buyout or being laid off.

My fear is that we’re moving toward an era of forced entrepreneurship, in which freelancers, consultants and others work on-demand, and for themselves. This isn’t a terrible thing, but it will necessitate changes in our society around health care and retirement planning for self-employed workers, as well as taxation of startups.