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Forget the Flu: Entrepreneurship May Be Viral

A new study by the Kauffman Foundation suggests that knowing an entrepreneur might convince you to become one.
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Entrepreneurship might be contagious.

A survey conducted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that more than 35 percent of respondents who knew an entrepreneur were entrepreneurs themselves. That percentage was even higher, about 38 percent, among those who knew an entrepreneur in a high-growth sector such as computer software or biotechnology.

The Kauffman Foundation surveyed 2,000 people around the U.S. and sorted their responses by age, gender, income and geographic location. Paul Kedrosky, a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation who authored the paper that announced the survey's results today, said entrepreneurship appears to be catching.

"While the results don't show specific causality, the connection between knowing and being an entrepreneur is strong," he said in a statement.

Entrepreneurship education and training programs can take heart from these findings. "Funding and programs to encourage entrepreneurship and wealth creation can have an impact simply by bringing together entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs," Kedrosky said, and suggested that exposure to entrepreneurs can cause entrepreneurship itself to "go 'viral.'"

The survey also revealed some interesting facts related to gender and geographic region.

Although in the popular imagination the West Coast is the No. 1 hub of entrepreneurial activity, the survey found that people in the Northeast were more likely to know entrepreneurs than people in other parts of the country, with slightly more than 43 percent reporting that they knew at least one business owner. People in the western United States, however, were more likely to know a so-called "growth entrepreneur," with more than 18 percent saying they knew one.

Men appear to be more likely to catch the entrepreneurship bug than women, based on survey responses. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, young people, ages 25 to 34, are more likely to know an entrepreneur than older people.

Related: Why Everyone Will Have to Become an Entrepreneur (Infographic)