’Push’ versus ‘pull’ entrepreneurship: an ambiguous distinction?

Chris Dawson, Andrew Gordon Henley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

233 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to reassess whether individuals choose to become self-employed for “pull” or “push” reasons, to discuss and describe ambiguities in this distinction, with focus on differences between men and women, and draw conclusions for further conceptual work.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper reviews current literature, from which specific hypotheses are developed. For illustration and evaluation secondary analysis is undertaken of an existing large-scale data source available in UK Quarterly Labour Force Surveys over the period 1999-2001.

Findings – It was found that 86 per cent state only a single reason for self-employment. Response patterns differ significantly between men and women. Independence is the most commonly cited motivation but 22 per cent of women cite family commitments. “Push” motivations may account for as much as 48 per cent depending on interpretation. Men who report two or more factors tend to combine “pull” factors, but women tend to combine “push” with “pull”.

Research limitations/implications – Respondents may display recall bias. Potential ambiguity in the way in which respondents may interpret particular motivations points to the need for future detailed qualitative research, and questionnaire item development. Further work is recommended to assess whether conclusions hold in recent recessionary economic conditions.

Practical implications – Clarity between “push” and “pull” factors is important in the design of entrepreneurship policy, especially during a recession. Further work is needed to provide this clarity to inform policy design.

Originality/value – Few previous studies investigate reasons for choosing entrepreneurship using large, population-generalisable data, and do not consider the conceptual ambiguities inherent in categorising motivations as either “pull” or “push”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-719
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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