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Are Millennials More Entrepreneurial Than Previous Generations?



The relationship between millennials and the concept of “entrepreneurship” is nuanced and complex.

Millennials clearly value entrepreneurship, and 67% of this group says that their goals involve eventually starting a business. Statistics show that millennials are always “on”, motivated to make a difference, and consider flexible hours to be a key to boosting productivity.

Unfortunately, millennials do not necessarily walk the walk – yet, anyways.

In 2014, only 2% of millennials in the U.S. were self-employed, compared to 7.6% and 8.3% for Gen X and Boomers respectively. This is partly understandable, since millennials are younger and less financially established. However, the situation is worse than one would think. For example, most millennials have less than $1,000 in savings, and many have paralyzing amounts of student debt, rising debt delinquencies, stagnating household income, and a fear of failure.

Are Millennials More Entrepreneurial Than Past Generations?

Today’s infographic from Online MBA Page shows statistics on entrepreneurship for America’s most interesting generation.

Are Millennials More Entrepreneurial Than Past Generations?

It appears that a confluence of factors is set to eventually make millennials the most entrepreneurial generation ever.

The proliferation of technology, the growth in available private startup capital, and the millennial mindset are all things that should help enable a shift to entrepreneurship. All millennials have to do is take advantage of the circumstances around them.

The challenge? Between 2004 and 2014, the average balance size held by student debt borrowers increased 77%, while the amount of student borrowers increased 89%. Meanwhile, home ownership for people aged 25-34 has decreased 10% from 2004-2015, and more Americans aged 25-34 say that “fear of failure” is preventing them from owning their own businesses.

In other words, the financial headwinds that millennials are facing are real. Understandably, it’s difficult to take on the risk of starting a business when living paycheck to paycheck, or when an ugly student loan is sitting on the personal balance sheet.

With a questionable macroeconomic outlook and central banks painted into a corner, it’s hard to see how this situation will be resolved anytime soon. If and when it does, look for many of the previously “reluctant” millennials to take advantage and finally hand in resignations to their current career tracks.

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Visualized: U.S. Corporate Bankruptcies On the Rise

In 2023, over 400 companies have folded. This graphic shows how corporate bankruptcies are growing at the second-fastest rate since 2010.



Visualized: U.S. Corporate Bankruptcies on the Rise

In March, Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, plunging its parent company SVB Financial Group into bankruptcy a week later.

While many expected a wave of bank failures to follow, much of this has since been averted—but cracks have begun to emerge with Moody’s recent downgrading of 10 small and mid-sized banks.

Across the wider corporate landscape, bankruptcies have begun to tick higher. Overstretched balance sheets coupled with 11 interest rate hikes since last year have added to mounting challenges for companies across many sectors.

This graphic shows the surge in corporate bankruptcies in 2023 based on data from S&P Global.

U.S. Corporate Bankruptcies Grow

So far in 2023, over 400 corporations have gone under. Corporate bankruptcies are rising at the fastest pace since 2010 (barring the pandemic), and are double the level seen this time last year.

Below, we show trends in corporate casualties with data as of July 31, 2023:

Year of FilingBankruptcy Filings
as of July
Annual Total

Represents public or private companies with public debt where either assets or liabilities are greater than or equal to $2 million, or private companies where assets or liabilities are greater than or equal to $10 million at time of bankruptcy.

Firms in the consumer discretionary and industrial sectors have seen the most bankruptcies, based on available data. Historically, both sectors carry significant debt on their balance sheets compared to other sectors, putting them at higher risk in a rising rate environment.

Overall, U.S. corporate interest costs have increased 22% annually compared to the first quarter of 2021. These additional costs, combined with higher wages, energy, and materials, among others, mean that companies may be under greater pressure to cut costs, restructure their debt, or in the worst case, fold.

Billion-Dollar Bankruptcies

This year, 16 companies with over $1 billion in liabilities have filed for bankruptcy. Among the most notable are retail chain Bed Bath & Beyond and the parent company of Silicon Valley Bank.

CompanyPrimary SectorDate
Party CityConsumer DiscretionaryJan 2023
Serta Simmons BeddingConsumer DiscretionaryJan 2023
AvayaInformation TechnologyFeb 2023
Diamond Sports Communication ServicesMar 2023
SVB FinancialFinancialsMar 2023
LTL ManagementN/AApr 2023
Bed Bath & BeyondConsumer DiscretionaryApr 2023
Whittaker, Clark & DanielsN/AApr 2023
MonitronicsIndustrialsMay 2023
Kidde-FenwalConsumer DiscretionaryMay 2023
Envision HealthcareHealthcareMay 2023
DieboldN/AJun 2023
Wesco AircraftIndustrialsJun 2023
PGX HoldingsIndustrialsJun 2023
CyxteraInformation TechnologyJun 2023
Voyager AviationIndustrialsJul 2023

Mattress giant Serta Simmons filed for bankruptcy early this year. It once made up nearly 20% of bedding sales in America. With a vast share of debt coming due this year, the company was unable to make payments due to higher borrowing costs.

What Comes Next?

In many ways, U.S. corporations have been resilient despite the sharp rise in borrowing costs and economic uncertainty.

This can be explained in part by stronger than anticipated profits seen in 2022. While some companies have cut costs, others have hiked prices in an inflationary environment, creating buffers for rising interest payments. Still, S&P 500 earnings have begun to slow this year, falling over 5% in the second quarter compared to last year.

Secondly, the structure of corporate debt is much different than before the global financial crash. Many companies locked in fixed-rate debt over longer periods after the crisis. Today, roughly 72% of rated U.S. corporate debt has fixed rates.

At the same time, banks are getting more creative with their lending structures when companies get into trouble. There has been a record “extend and amend” activity for certain types of corporate bonds. This debt restructuring is enabling companies to keep operating.

The bad news is that corporate debt swelled during the pandemic, and eventually this debt will come due likely at much higher costs and with more severe consequences.

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