Cross-country start-up rates and formal incentives: a moderated mediation model of economic development and societal legitimacy

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Though current research identifies which institutions are important as boundary conditions for entrepreneurship, questions remain about how they actually influence national entrepreneurial activity, particularly through start-ups. Specifically, the authors attempt to answer the following question: How do formal incentives influence the start-up rates across countries? Through a conceptual framework where formal incentives and societal legitimacy represent formal and informal institutions, respectively, the authors contribute to existing knowledge about national start-up activity by showing both the mechanism and conditions under which formal incentives increase the start-up rate. First, it is argued that formal incentives influence the start-up rate indirectly through the market opportunities available through economic development. Second, it is argued that these formal and informal institutions substitute for one another. The arguments are confirmed with a panel dataset on 57 countries from the World Bank Group Entrepreneurship Surveys and Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. A key implication of the findings is that early efforts at stimulating economic development, for example, by incentivizing foreign investments in new technology, can also kickstart the entrepreneurial activity as much as entrepreneurial activity also contributes to economic development in return.

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    • Figure 1. Conceptual framework
    • Figure 2. Simple slope results
    • Table 1. Descriptive statistics and correlations (for unstandardized values)
    • Table 2. Regression results