NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Success in Entrepreneurship: Doing the Math

Michael Kremer, Jonathan Robinson, Olga Rostapshova


This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book African Successes: Human Capital, Volume 2, Sebastian Edwards, Simon Johnson, and David N. Weil, editors
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in African Successes Project

Outside of agriculture, the family owned business is the most common form of enterprise in low-income countries. There is tremendous heterogeneity in how such firms perform. For instance, in the retail sector, some firms hold large inventories and earn significant profits, while others hold minimal stocks and provide little more than subsistence income for their owners. However, it is an open question why there is such heterogeneity in the success of small firms. This paper examines the association between entrepreneurial success and firm and owner characteristics, in the context of the small retail sector in Western Kenya. Earlier work finds very high rates of return to inventories. Inventories are positively associated with math skills. Since inventories and profits are positively correlated, math skills predict profits as well. Math skills are also robustly correlated with profits conditional on inventories.

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