Small Business Economics

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 647–668 | Cite as

Does rural entrepreneurship pay?

  • Li YuEmail author
  • Georgeanne M. Artz


This paper investigates entrepreneurship and location choices among college-educated individuals in the USA and the role of location-specific human capital in these choices. We model the location and entrepreneurship decisions jointly, demonstrating that individuals who choose a rural residence are more likely to become entrepreneurs when compared to their urban peers. We then explore whether, all else equal, the entrepreneurship choice of rural alumni lowers earnings, consistent with the story of business location choice being motivated by the entrepreneurs’ preference for a rural lifestyle, whether there is evidence that the location choice is productive, or whether rural residents are pushed to start a business due to thin labor markets. After controlling for selection, rural entrepreneurs earn significantly more than rural workers but still less than urban entrepreneurs, lending support to the notion that rural entrepreneurs’ location choices are productive and rural entrepreneurs have stronger location preference. An Oaxaca decomposition of the earnings gap across subsamples reveals the returns to entrepreneurial skills are much lower in rural areas; however, the earnings gap between rural and urban entrepreneurs is at least partially offset by positive self-selection into a rural area. This finding lends support to “grow your own” business development strategies for rural regions.


Entrepreneurship Earnings differentials Location-specific human capital Embeddedness Rural 

JEL Classification

R11 J31 O15 L26 



This manuscript has benefitted immensely from the helpful comments of Peter Orazem, Betsy Hoffman, and Troung Duong. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No. 71403303), Program for Innovation Research and Talented Youth Plan (Project No. QYP1604) at Central University of Finance and Economics.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.China Center for Human Capital and Labor Market ResearchCentral University of Finance and EconomicsBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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