Michael Austin

A week ago I wrote of the decline of entrepreneurial activity in the nation, Missouri, Kansas City, MO, and Saint Louis, MO. The share of workers in firms aged five years or less has steadily dropped in the U.S. and Missouri. However, the rate in Missouri has fallen faster than the national average since 2001.

Why are there a smaller percentage of workers in startups, considering the state is at a new record high level for the number of non-farm jobs? Data suggest that Missouri startups are taking less of that job growth pie than they did before. Since 1995 to 2015, job growth from startups was near 72% of all job growth in the state of Missouri. If we look at this 20-year performance as a “normal” share of job growth from startups, then seeing a startup share at 62.5% should come as a disappointment. Of course, growing shares of workers in large, established firms can also spur growth. However, there are specific advantages that startups bring to a region that can be more difficult for established firms to provide. For example, research has shown that increased prevalence of startups can bring more innovation through increased competition (pp. 2–3) , allow for better adoption of new information, can create new industries (pp. 328–330), and improve labor productivity.  The graph below lists the share of startup job growth of Missouri, its metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), and non-MSA portion relative to its 20-year average.

From the graph, we observe that Missouri currently runs below its 20-year average by more than 9 percentage points. Unfortunately, this statewide drop comes from underperformance in nearly every population center; with strongest losses coming from Kansas City, Joplin, and Saint Joseph. 

Interestingly, two of those three MSAs include areas in both Missouri and Kansas, a state that improved its tax climate by lowering individual income taxes by 30% for its residents and eliminating income taxes for personal businesses. The Saint Louis metro area shares a border with Illinois, a state suffering from population loss and which hiked corporate income taxe levels from 2011 to 2015 to more than 3 percentage points above Missouri’s.  A look at the Kansas side of the KC Area shows that it also underperformed its long-run growth, albeit by a smaller margin. In the Saint Joseph area, the Kansas side is currently exceeding its long-run trend and is seeing exceptional growth. There is good news however; the Missouri side of the Saint Louis area is outperforming the Illinois side.

What factors entice entrepreneurs to move or start their business in a new area? Could it be overall migration flows, or how cheap it is in an area to start and grow a business? Part 3 of my “Entrepreneurship in Missouri” will review a study published by the Brookings Institution that may shed some light on reasons as to why entrepreneurship is falling. 

About the Author

Michael Austin.JPG
Michael Austin
Policy Analyst
Michael Austin was a Policy Analyst at the Show-Me Institute specializing in state and local budgets, taxes, and economic growth. Michael graduated with a BBA in business management and economics from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, and holds an MA with honors in economics from the University of Kansas.