Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

National Culture and Entrepreneurship: A Review of Behavioral Research

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

National Culture and Entrepreneurship: A Review of Behavioral Research

Article excerpt

Conceptual arguments for the association between cultural characteristics and entrepreneurship have existed for decades but only in the last 10 years has this relationship been the focus of empirical scrutiny. In this article, we review and synthesize the findings of 21 empirical studies that examine the association between national cultural characteristics and aggregate measures of entrepreneurship, individual characteristics of entrepreneurs, and aspects of corporate entrepreneurship. The study concedes that a predominant number of empirical studies have used Hofstede's conceptualization of national culture and that other domains have been underdeveloped. A preliminary model that integrates past findings is extended. The review highlights fruitful avenues for future research.


How does national culture relate to levels of entrepreneurial activity? This question is motivated by the observations of economists (e.g., Schumpeter, 1934), sociologists (e.g., Weber, 1930), and psychologists (e.g., McClelland, 1961) that countries differ in levels of entrepreneurial activity. Entrepreneurial activities are considered an important source of technological innovation (Schumpeter, 1934) and economic growth (Birley, 1987). Therefore, understanding the influence of national culture on entrepreneurship is of considerable theoretical and practical value. In this article, we review past empirical research on the association between national culture and entrepreneurship and suggest some future directions for scholarly inquiry.

Culture is defined as a set of shared values, beliefs, and expected behaviors (e.g., Herbig, 1994; Hofstede, 1980a). Deeply embedded, unconscious, and even irrational shared values shape political institutions as well as social and technical systems, all of which simultaneously reflect and reinforce values and beliefs. Cultural values indicate the degree to which a society considers entrepreneurial behaviors, such as risk taking and independent thinking, to be desirable. Cultures that value and reward such behavior promote a propensity to develop and introduce radical innovation, whereas cultures that reinforce conformity, group interests, and control over the future are not likely to show risk-taking and entrepreneurial behavior (e.g., Herbig & Miller, 1992; Herbig, 1994; Hofstede, 1980a). Therefore, it is important to understand the behavioral research on national culture and its potential influence on entrepreneurship.

We use a broad definition of entrepreneurship for our review of the literature. Entrepreneurship includes new-venture creation that is growth oriented and generates employment, as well as small businesses and micro-enterprises that may provide self-employment but not much employment growth (Bhide, 2000). Entrepreneurship exists also within organizations in the form of corporate venturing, strategic renewal, and spin-offs for ideas generated within organizations (Guth & Ginsberg, 1990; Zahra & Dess, 2001). We believe that an inclusive definition of entrepreneurship helps capture a broader interpretation of the effects of culture.


Our review focuses on the empirical rather than the extensive conceptual literature on national culture. We searched ABI-Inform/Proquest for references to culture and entrepreneurship. This database contains references for the majority of journals featuring scholarly research in business since 1971. It includes the entire collections of journals that most frequently publish entrepreneurship and cross-cultural behavioral research (e.g., Academy of Management Journal, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Journal of Business Venturing, Journal of International Business Studies, and Strategic Management Journal, among others). In addition, we examined the reference sections of all empirical studies and many conceptual articles to identify articles not revealed by the electronic search. …

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