Proposal preview

Defining and measuring entrepreneurship in business history from big data: The England and Wales business population 1851-1911

This session has a brief overall introduction, and then 3 papers that seek to stimulate discussion of how entrepreneurs are defined and identified among the population. The papers each use the full population data from the England and Wales censuses for 1851-1911 derived from I-CeM database at UK Data Archive. This allows ‘big data’ analysis of 140 million records for individuals. The discussion focuses on the attributes of individuals that are identifiable as ‘in business’ at census years: as employers with their employees (recorded in the censuses 1851-81), those self-identified as employers or own account sole traders (recorded in censuses 1891-1911), as company directors (identified in the census from cross related databases), and those with other entrepreneurial attributes. This is a big data session that seeks to identify and extract the whole population of entrepreneurs and examine how definitions from the census offer new opportunities, constraints and challenges for measuring the total business population and its changes over time. Discussion of the correspondence between definitions of entrepreneurs and business proprietors will allow a wide debate on different focuses of economic and business history. The papers then explore specifics of 1. individual entrepreneurism, 2. gender and family, and 3. geographical clustering through endogenous development or migration.

The introduction to the session by Bob Bennett explores definitions of entrepreneurship, and the potential and limitations of the big data available. The first paper by Bennett et al. on ‘Entrepreneur characteristics and choices’ presents an econometric model of entrepreneur choice to operate a business using logit and other estimators. This is used to examine the role of age, gender, marital status, household structure, business sector, locational and other variables. Sub-categories of the model are used to understand the choices of operating portfolios of multiple businesses, and other specialist business activities. Although there are data constraints on interpretation, the paper indicates the role of business sector, urban opportunity, age, gender, and marital status as the main influences on entrepreneurship choices.

The second paper by Carry van Lieshout on ‘Gender and the family firm’ develops a detailed examination of gender, marital status and household structure in order to interpret the changing role of the family and family firm relationships, single business proprietors, widow and widower-headed businesses, and the people they employed. The paper present the first large-scale analysis for those family-owned businesses identifiable in the censuses using the data on all employers and the self-employed in England and Wales between 1851 and 1911. Within these the role family and gender plays are examined, resulting in a large sample of family firms. The paper considers three main issues: first, the incidence of family firms by sector; second, the family structure of those engaged in family businesses, particularly the importance of gender and life cycle in shaping the kinds of businesses in which families engaged; and third, the distinctiveness of businesses run by married, single people, widows and widowers.

The third paper by Harry Smith on ‘Location, clusters and migration‘ focuses on the role of locational concentrations of different types of business proprietor, the balance between employers and own account businesses, their sector distinctions between places, and the influence of this on overall rates of entrepreneurship and clustering. The locational patterns are also assessed for the extent of endogenous or external sources of development using the information on birthplace contained in the census. The birthplace information allows comparison of local-born, those from other parts of the UK, and foreign-born individuals. The paper offers the first whole population study of these effects for 1851-1911, and their interrelation with age, gender, occupational sector, and family structure. It considers the chance that a member of a migrant group will be a business proprietor; whether location of origin affects this probability; and whether migrant entrepreneurs are different in their socio-economic characteristics from others.

Organizer(s)

  • Robert Bennett University of Cambridge rjb7@cam.ac.uk UK

Session members

  • Robert Bennett, University of Cambridge
  • Carry van Lieshout, University of Cambridge
  • Harry Smith, University of Cambridge

Discussant(s)

  • Leslie Hannah London School of Economics, UK lesliehannah@hotmail.com

Papers

Panel abstract

This panel of 3 papers seeks to stimulate discussion on how entrepreneurs are defined and identified among the whole population. The papers use the full population data from the England and Wales censuses 1851-1911 derived from upgrading the I-CeM database at UK Data Archive. This allows ‘big data’ analysis of 160 million records for individuals. The discussion focuses on individuals that are identifiable as ‘in business’ at census years: employers with their employee numbers (c.200,000 persons per year), own account sole traders (1-1.5m persons per year), and company directors (identified in the census through data linkage to other sources). This panel allows debate on the constraints and challenges of measuring the total business population and its changes over time. The papers then explore specifics of individual entrepreneurism, gender and family, and geographical clustering through endogenous development or migration. More information on the project underlying this proposal at: https://www.campop.geog.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/driversofentrepreneurship/

1st half

Defining and measuring entrepreneurship in business history from big data: The England and Wales business population 1851-1911

Bob Bennett

This paper introduces the database used for all the following papers. It provides the definitions and background to the WEHC presentation on how data were constructed from the population census to yield an entrepreneurs database for 1851-1911. The paper first explores definitions of entrepreneurship that can be used for whole population analysis. It details how the data were assembled and the main potential and limitations. The presentation at the WEHC focuses mainly on: • Database extraction • Definitions • Overview of the main aggregate trends of numbers and rates of employers and own account 1851-1911 • Overview of the main aggregate trends in firm size • Main entrepreneur characteristics based on econometric models by age, gender, marital status, household structure, business sector, locational and other variables.

This paper introduces the database used for all the following papers. It provides the definitions and background to the WEHC presentation on how data were constructed from the population census to yield an entrepreneurs database for 1851-1911. The paper first explores definitions of entrepreneurship that can be used for whole population analysis. It details how the data were assembled and the main potential and limitations. The presentation at the WEHC focuses mainly on: • Database extraction • Definitions • Overview of the main aggregate trends of numbers and rates of employers and own account 1851-1911 • Overview of the main aggregate trends in firm size • Main entrepreneur characteristics based on econometric models by age, gender, marital status, household structure, business sector, locational and other variables.

Geography of Entrepreneurship

Harry Smith

This paper focuses on the role of locational concentrations of different types of business proprietor, the balance between employers and own account businesses, their sector distinctions between places, and the influence of this on overall rates of entrepreneurship and clustering for the whole business population of England and Wales 1851-1911. This allows assessment of levels fo entrepreneurship and the diversity of sectoral concentrations. The locational patterns are also assessed for the extent of endogenous or external sources of development using the information on birthplace contained in the census, which allows comparison of the business activities of local-born, those from other parts of the UK, and foreign-born individuals. This paper offers the first whole population study of these effects for the years 1851-1911, and their interrelation with age, gender, occupational sector, and family structure. The analysis reveals significant variation according to place of origin. This analysis is the first large-scale study...

This paper focuses on the role of locational concentrations of different types of business proprietor, the balance between employers and own account businesses, their sector distinctions between places, and the influence of this on overall rates of entrepreneurship and clustering for the whole business population of England and Wales 1851-1911. This allows assessment of levels fo entrepreneurship and the diversity of sectoral concentrations. The locational patterns are also assessed for the extent of endogenous or external sources of development using the information on birthplace contained in the census, which allows comparison of the business activities of local-born, those from other parts of the UK, and foreign-born individuals. This paper offers the first whole population study of these effects for the years 1851-1911, and their interrelation with age, gender, occupational sector, and family structure. The analysis reveals significant variation according to place of origin. This analysis is the first large-scale study the geography of entrepreneurship, and the role of migration for nineteenth-century England and Wales.

Gender and the family firm

Carry van Lieshout

This paper examines the characteristics of gender, marital status and household structure in order to interpret the changing role of the family and family firm relationships, single business proprietors, widow and widower-headed businesses, and the people they employed. There are extensive and ongoing discussions about the efficiency or otherwise of family firms and possible distinctive roles of female entrepreneurship. This paper present the first large scale analysis for those family-owned businesses identifiable in the 1851-1911 censuses of England and Wales. The data used draw from a database of all employers and the self-employed in England and Wales between 1851 and 1911. The employers and self-employed extracted allow the characteristic roles of family and gender within businesses to be examined in detail on a national scale for the first time. While not a complete set of all family firms in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, the numbers of firms that can...

This paper examines the characteristics of gender, marital status and household structure in order to interpret the changing role of the family and family firm relationships, single business proprietors, widow and widower-headed businesses, and the people they employed. There are extensive and ongoing discussions about the efficiency or otherwise of family firms and possible distinctive roles of female entrepreneurship. This paper present the first large scale analysis for those family-owned businesses identifiable in the 1851-1911 censuses of England and Wales. The data used draw from a database of all employers and the self-employed in England and Wales between 1851 and 1911. The employers and self-employed extracted allow the characteristic roles of family and gender within businesses to be examined in detail on a national scale for the first time. While not a complete set of all family firms in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, the numbers of firms that can be studied is large and covers the entire country. The paper considers three main issues: first, the incidence of family firms by sector; second, the family structure of those engaged in family businesses, the importance of gender and life cycle, and the distinctiveness of businesses run by single people, widows and widowers.

2nd half