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Regressions of Feasibility, Desire, and Intent on the Study's Variables

  Feasibility Desire Intent 
Age a  0 -0.08 -.09*
Sex 0.02 -.12 ** -.10**
Marital status 0.05 0 0.02
Own a business .15** .17*** .24***
DR2  .03*** .05*** .08***
Singapore -.33*** 0.01 -0.01
Mexico 0.07 0.04 .15***
Sri Lanka -0.01 .15*** .16***
Philippines 0.06 .21*** .24***
Bangladesh -.12** 0.06 .14**
Indonesia -0.02 .21*** .28***
DR2  .13*** .06*** .08***
Social status .11** .26*** .32***
Shame of failure -0.01 0.01 0.01
Innovation 0.03 -0.04 -.08*
Value of work -0.03 -0.04 -0.06
DR2  .01** .06*** .08**
Total R2  17 17 24
F= 11.38*** 11.21*** 17.75***

* p<.05;**p<.01;***p<.001.
a Coefficients in the table are standardized betas. N=816.


This paper explored the ability of socio-cultural factors to explain interest by individuals in seven countries in starting a business.  Since little previous empirical work had been done in the area, the paper first attempted to identify socio-cultural dimensions that might be relevant in predicting interest in entrepreneurship.  The four dimensions used were derived from the existing literature and through consultation with people familiar with Asian entrepreneurship.  The attempt to gain an Asian perspective was conducted to provide an alternative to the American-based viewpoint that has existed in most business literature due to the predominance of studies on American entrepreneurs.
In the results, one of the four socio-cultural variables, the social status of entrepreneurs, predicted desire and intent to start a business.  The higher an individual perceived the status of entrepreneurs to be, the greater was that individual's desire and intent to become one.  A modest relationship was also found between the value of innovation and desire to start a business.  In this case, the relationship was negative, indicating that people who believed innovation was highly regarded were less likely to want to start a business.  In the U.S., people who want to innovate are often viewed as starting a business to give them the opportunity to do so.  However, Singaporean and Indonesian MBA students who were asked to comment on the finding stated that they would only be inclined to start a business if they regarded it as a sure thing.  Therefore, they would likely start a business in a situation with a low risk of failure.  If they wanted to be innovative, they would be inclined to do so within the protective walls of a larger company.  Shame of failure did not predict entrepreneurial tendencies.  These same MBA students also commented that shame of failure might not stop a person from starting a business, but rather it would make them extremely unwilling to give up on a struggling business as a failed enterprise (see also Ray, 1994).
Differences across countries were not explicitly discussed in the Introduction but still present interesting findings.  Starting a business was viewed as less feasible by Singaporeans and Bangladeshis than by respondents from the other countries.  One might speculate that the reasons for these scores might differ: Singaporean judgments of low feasibility may be due to the intense competitive environment in the city-state while Bangladeshis may view the reason as due to a lack of adequate resources such as capital.  Sri Lankans, Filipinos, and Indonesians expressed greater desire to start a business than did Singaporeans, Mexicans, and Americans.  With the comparatively high rates of unemployment and underemployment in the former countries, starting a business may be the most viable path to gainful employment.  Respondents from every country except Singapore stated a higher intent to start a business than did Americans.  These two countries, Singapore and the USA, share the characteristic of having the highest per capita incomes of the countries in the sample as well as the largest percents of their workforces employed by large organizations.  As data comes in from additional countries in the Asian and Pacific Rim countries, we hope to be able to explore differences across countries in a more systematic way.

Several limitations exist for this study.  Among them, the mono-method data collection techniques employed may have influenced the results.  For example, the desirability and intent variables did not show the extent of difference Schapero and Sokol  (1982) would have expected, despite the fact that their placement at opposite ends of the questionnaire might have been expected to limit their correlation.  Also, the socio-cultural questions asked what respondents thought was important in their societies, not what they felt was personally important. Differences between these two perspectives may have reduced the connection between the socio-cultural dimensions and the personally-stated dependent variables.  Further, MBAs may provide a valuable viewpoint of potential future business leaders, but the extent to which they represent the society at large is in question.

An additional weakness is the fact that, while the countries showed similarity in the factor structure of the variables used, some variability did exist.  This variability could reduce the ability of the main variables used to show systematic interrelationships.  Since the study posits socio-cultural dimensions are relevant, it must also admit that socio-cultural differences may exist in the interpretation and answering of paper-and-pencil questionnaires.  As cross-cultural studies increase, this area will take on increasing importance as a focus in itself for research.  As an important limitation to note, this study assesses judgments of feasibility, desire, and intent rather than actual decisions to start a business.  To the extent differences exist between these attitudinal dimensions and actual business start-ups, the results of the study will diminish in relevance.  In defense of the approach used, the purpose of the present study was to assess the environment for entrepreneurship in various countries rather than the numbers of new ventures.  The environment for entrepreneurship is expected to set the context within which potential entrepreneurs will make their decisions.  Research in social psychology indicates that the best predictor of actual behavior is intentions to engage in that behavior  (e.g., Fishbein & Azjen, 1975).

Overall, this research viewed the socio-cultural environment for entrepreneurship as an important yet understudied area.  It attempted an exploratory study of several factors thought important in that environment as possible predictors of interest in starting a business.  Results indicate that the area may be worthy of additional study and that further efforts to identify and test socio-cultural variables as they affect entrepreneurship are warranted
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