The majority of Americans would rather work for themselves than for other people. A 2009 survey by the Gallup Organization of 1,010 randomly selected Americans over the age of 15 showed that 55 percent of Americans would prefer self-employment, versus 36 percent who would rather work for others.
The big draw of self-employment appears to be personal freedom. The majority (51 percent) of Americans who would prefer self-employment say that they would favor it because working for oneself offers “personal independence, interesting tasks and self-fulfillment.”
Making money is not a major reason why Americans favor self employment. While many Europeans reported that they would prefer self-employment because of the greater potential earnings it offers, only seven percent of Americans who preferred self-employment gave that as the reason.
Nor is the desire to pursue a particular business opportunity what explains why a majority of Americans favor self-employment. The Gallup survey revealed that only two percent of Americans who would prefer to work for themselves said that they preferred self-employment because it would offer them the chance to realize a business opportunity.
While Americans express a stronger desire to work for themselves than people in many other countries, their preference for self-employment appears to be weakening. The Gallup survey indicated that the share of Americans who would prefer self-employment fell from 69 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2009.
More Americans want to become self-employed than think it is feasible to do so. The Gallup survey revealed that only 41 percent of Americans – 14 percentage points fewer than the share that would prefer to be self-employed – believe it would be feasible to go into business for themselves in the next five years.
But the barriers that many observers claim deter people from going into business for themselves don’t seem to be the ones holding back those desireous of self-employment. Only two percent of those who felt that becoming self-employed in the next five years was infeasible cited administrative and regulatory barriers as the obstacle. Moreover, only 12 percent of those who said they were held back from being self-employed identified a lack of finances as the obstacle, only two percent cited an absence of ideas, only four percent pointed to a skill deficiency, and only four percent said the magnitude of the risk was to blame.