Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Donald J. Bruce

Committee Members

William F. Fox, Henry W. Herzog, Jr., Matthew N. Murray, Daniel P. Murphy


I use a twelve-year panel of tax return data to assess whether or not taxes affect entrepreneurship. Beyond assessing possible distortions in entrepreneurial activities created by the tax system, this research provides information to policymakers on the effectiveness of tax policy in influencing entrepreneurial activity. The extent of entrepreneurial activity in the economy is a vital policy concern as entrepreneurs are thought to contribute to economic growth by creating jobs and producing innovations.

Past theoretical and empirical studies examining the effects of taxes on entrepreneurship produced ambiguous results creating the need for further study. Toward this end, I investigate the effects of tax rates on entrepreneurial entry and survival as well as the effects of health insurance deductibility on exits from an entrepreneurial activity. My contributions to the current literature include developing a model combining the two past theoretical approaches, using a panel of tax return data, and examining an aspect of the tax system (health insurance deductibility) beyond the tax rates typically studied.

I find convincing evidence that marginal tax rates and health insurance deductibility have important effects on entrepreneurial decisions. Results show that increases in marginal tax rates on wage income increase the probability of entry, increase the duration of entrepreneurial activities, and decrease the probability of exit. Increases in marginal tax rates on entrepreneurship income decrease the probability of entry, shorten entrepreneurial spells, and increase the probability of exit. The effects from changes in the entrepreneurial marginal tax rate are larger than those from the marginal tax rate on wages suggesting that an across the board tax cut would increase entrepreneurship by increasing entry, decreasing exit, and enhancing survival. Additionally, the availability of a health insurance deduction from income tax calculations enhances entrepreneurial survival.

Taken together, the results indicate that tax policy is a potentially effective tool for influencing levels of entrepreneurship in the economy. More broadly, these results provide evidence that multiple aspects of the tax code, including but not limited to tax rates, are relevant for assessing behavioral responses.

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