Does Owning a Small Business Make People Happier?


Small businesses have accounted for approximately 65 percent of new private sector jobs over the past 15 years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Owning a small business is often seen as a challenging, but rewarding experience, sentiments that are confirmed by a new poll conducted by Environics Research for TD Bank. According to the press release:

A remarkable 69 percent of American small business owners polled for the TD Small Business Happiness Index would describe themselves as "very happy," with 61 percent believing they are happier than their peers. Furthermore, the pressures of the recent recession have not deterred small business owners from entrepreneurship, as 87 percent say that five years from now, they're likely to still be running their own business.

TD Bank's survey — which explored the attitudes and behaviors of North American small business owners in a dozen metropolitan areas across the United States and Canada — further revealed that nearly 9 in 10 American small business owners are happier owning and running their own business as compared with working for someone else. However, the sense of pride and accomplishment they derive as small business owners is paired with a deep commitment to the office, as the majority work 50 or more hours each week, with 39 percent saying they work 60 hours or more.…

There are several reasons for small business owners' high satisfaction levels. American small business owners say that owning a small business gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment (97 percent) plus a strong personal connection to their employees (94 percent) and their customers (88 percent). In addition, 82 percent say that owning a small business gives them the opportunity to volunteer their time or make donations to charities, sports teams and events.

The study would have been more useful, however, if it had polled employees in other sectors to provide some basis for comparison. "Only small business owners were surveyed for the release. We have not surveyed any public sector workers for comparison," wrote Jennifer Morneau, a spokesperson for TD Bank, in an e-mail. "We are however working on a survey of corporate businesses, but we don't have results back yet."

It would also have been nice to see the entire poll, but TD refused our request for a copy.

More from Reason on how the free enterprise system leads to better outcomes here, here, and here. Also be sure to check out a recent series of reports released by the Institute for Justice, which look at the plight of five different entrepreneurs and their struggles to create successful small businesses in the face of restrictive government regulations.