Entrepreneurship has gained increasing support from governments in recent decades. Entrepreneurship is considered to generate new jobs, innovations, and economic growth. In current research, a causal link between entrepreneurial activity and economic growth is maintained, where variations in entrepreneurship precede variations in economic output. Various models identify a positive effect entrepreneurship on economic development in advanced, innovation-driven economies in the most recent decades – a time when several Western countries transformed from ‘managed’ to ‘entrepreneurial’ economies.
Self-employment is one of the most common indicators of entrepreneurship in both policy and research. The present study analyzes the relationship between growth in self-employment and economic growth in Sweden between 1850 and 2000. For the entire period (1851–2000), variations in self-employment had a significant, instantaneous positive correlation with GDP growth. Using Granger causality tests, the results in this study show that variations in self-employment did not granger-cause GDP growth. We discovered a structural break in GDP growth as early as in the year of 1948, which gives two different periods: 1851–1948 and 1949–2000.
Between 1851 and 1948, Granger causality between self-employment and GDP in either (Granger) direction could not be established. For the other segment (1949–2000), GDP growth granger-caused self-employment growth, but not the other way around. Granger causality tests in the frequency domain show that for the period 1949–2000, but for no other periods, variations in self-employment lagged with GDP growth. Consequently, GDP growth preceded self-employment growth, but self-employment growth did not precede GDP growth.
Given that self-employment is a suitable indicator for entrepreneurship, the empirical results in this study are, in several respects, in disagreement with dominating assumptions in mainstream entrepreneurship research.