Childhood adversity and the propensity for entrepreneurship: a quasi-experimental study of the Great Chinese Famine

Zhiming Cheng, Wei Guo, Mathew Hayward, Russell Smyth, Haining Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Studies on the determinants of entrepreneurship emphasize that challenged adults tend to become entrepreneurs. However, research has not addressed the childhood origins surrounding the propensity for entrepreneurship. This article links childhood adversity to the propensity of individuals to become migrant entrepreneurs later in life. We test hypotheses derived from this theory in the context of whether, and when, children who survived the Great Chinese Famine of 1959–1961 became migrant entrepreneurs. Results strongly indicate that those who survived greater hardship during the Famine are more likely to become entrepreneurs, especially when they were younger during the famine years. We also find that being younger at the time of migration increased the likelihood of becoming entrepreneurs in their new locale. Overall, this study casts light on why, how and when childhood adversity shapes the propensity for entrepreneurship.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106063
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Business Venturing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Childhood
  • China
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Internal migration

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