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date: 29 September 2023

Entrepreneurship and the Poverty Experiencelocked

Entrepreneurship and the Poverty Experiencelocked

  • Michael MorrisMichael MorrisKeough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame


Poverty is more than a lack of money or an inability to afford basic necessities. It is an experience that is multidimensional and includes challenges related to literacy, health, food security, housing, transportation, safety, fatigue, underemployment, limited social networks, and limited access to many opportunities available to those in other income categories. Poverty is a pernicious global problem with unacceptably high levels persisting in spite of trillions of dollars of annual spending by governments and other organizations. While this kind of investment represents a critical lifeline to many individuals and families, it is not moving enough of them out of poverty. As a result, there is a need to explore alternative solutions and approaches. Entrepreneurship, or the creation of businesses, by those experiencing poverty is one potential pathway to a better life. Yet it is a pathway about which we understand relatively little. While the poverty–entrepreneurship interface has received growing attention from scholars over the past few years, very little theoretical or conceptual work has been done. More critically, there is scant empirical evidence on such basic questions as the rate of business creation by those in poverty, success and sustainability rates, key success factors, the role of institutions and entrepreneurial ecosystems in venture outcomes, and much more. The unique difficulties faced by these entrepreneurs can be captured through the liability of poorness, a concept which includes gaps in five types of literacy, a scarcity or short-term orientation, severe nonbusiness distractions, and the lack of any safety net. As a result, the ventures that are created tend to be survival businesses that are labor intensive, with low margins, little differentiation, no bargaining power with suppliers or customers, lack of equipment and technology, and limited capacity. These are fragile enterprises, suggesting the priority may not simply be fostering higher levels of start-up activity among the poor, but interventions that enable them to become sustainable. A beginning point in realizing the potential of entrepreneurship as a poverty alleviation tool is the development of new insights on expanding opportunity horizons of these individuals, helping them escape the commodity trap, rethinking resourcing and microcredit, and assisting with adoption of the entrepreneurial mindset.


  • Entrepreneurship
  • Social Issues

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