Business and social entrepreneurs in the UK: gender, context and commitment

Jonathan Levie, Mark Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate what sort of people become social entrepreneurs, and in what way they differ from business entrepreneurs. More importantly, to investigate in what socio-economic context entrepreneurial individuals are more likely to become social than business entrepreneurs. These questions are important for policy because there has been a shift from direct to indirect delivery of many public services in the UK, requiring a professional approach to social enterprise.

Design/methodology/approach – Evidence is presented from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) UK survey based upon a representative sample of around 21,000 adults aged between 16 and 64 years interviewed in 2009. The authors use logistic multivariate regression techniques to identify differences between business and social entrepreneurs in demographic characteristics, effort, aspiration, use of resources, industry choice, deprivation, and organisational structure.

Findings – The results show that the odds of an early-stage entrepreneur being a social rather than a business entrepreneur are reduced if they are from an ethnic minority, if they work ten hours or more per week on the venture, and if they have a family business background; while they are increased if they have higher levels of education and if they are a settled in-migrant to their area. While women social entrepreneurs are more likely than business entrepreneurs to be women, this is due to gender-based differences in time commitment to the venture. In addition, the more deprived the community they live in, the more likely women entrepreneurs are to be social than business entrepreneurs. However, this does not hold in the most deprived areas where we argue civic society is weakest and therefore not conducive to support any form of entrepreneurial endeavour based on community engagement.

Originality/value – The paper's findings suggest that women may be motivated to become social entrepreneurs by a desire to improve the socio-economic environment of the community in which they live and see social enterprise creation as an appropriate vehicle with which to address local problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-217
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • business entrepreneurs
  • business formation
  • global entreprenurship monitor
  • United Kingdom
  • women
  • social entrepreneurs


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