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The effects of attitudes and perceived environment conditions on students’ entrepreneurial intent
An Austrian perspective
Erich J. Schwarz, Malgorzata A. Wdowiak, Daniela A. Almer-Jarz and Robert J. Breitenecker
Department of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, Klagenfurt University, Klagenfurt, Austria
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine key factors inﬂuencing students’ intent to create a new venture. Based on Ajzen’s theory of planned behaviour and Autio’s model of intention, it aims to develop a model of entrepreneurial intent that incorporates both human and environmental factors. Speciﬁcally, the proposed model aims to focus on three constructs to predict the entrepreneurial intent, i.e. general attitudes (toward money, change, and competiveness), the attitude toward entrepreneurship, and the perception of the university environment and regional start-up infrastructure. Design/methodology/approach – In June 2005, 35,040 students of medicine, law, and technical, natural, social and business science from seven universities in Austria (electronic survey) were contacted. The response rate was 8.10 per cent. A total of 2,124 cases were considered in the ﬁnal analysis. A multiple linear regression model with attitudes, perceptions of environment conditions, and selected control variables (age, gender, ﬁeld of study) was estimated to test the hypotheses. Findings – With the exception of the attitude toward competitiveness, all other paths regarding general and speciﬁc attitudes are signiﬁcant. Pertaining to the environment conditions, only signiﬁcant effects of the university on students’ interest in business founding were detected. Other environment factors have no impact on entrepreneurial intention among students in Austria. In addition to that, signiﬁcant differences in entrepreneurial intent regarding age, gender and ﬁeld of study were found. Despite variation in the intent level between students of different ﬁelds of study, any signiﬁcant differences in the effects of predictor variables on the entrepreneurial intent among the investigated student population were not discovered. Research limitations/implications – Future research should place more emphasis on interaction between personal and environmental factors. Besides, students’ social networks (family and friends) should be included in the analysis of entrepreneurial career decision. Practical implications – The universities in Austria should more extensively address entrepreneurship education to students of other subjects than business sciences. An important component of entrepreneurial training is a social learning process. In this respect, inviting successful entrepreneurs (role models) to the lectures or enabling students small business experience via interaction with local entrepreneurs can be viewed as supportive actions. Developing entrepreneurial skills as crucial life capacities should be the main target of all university faculties. Originality/value – The paper lays the foundation for a better understanding of the “intent preconditions” in the context of new venture creation, particularly in the context of Austrian students. Keywords Entrepreneurship, Attitudes, Perception, Students, Austria Paper type Research paper
Education þ Training Vol. 51 No. 4, 2009 pp. 272-291 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0040-0912 DOI 10.1108/00400910910964566
Introduction In the last decade, there has been growing interest in undertaking and intensifying actions to promote and support the idea of entrepreneurship as an attractive alternative to wage employment among students in Austria and around the globe. There are several reasons for this tendency. First, well-educated entrepreneurs are expected to create ventures that grow faster than the enterprises of their counterparts. The importance of education for the successful performance of new ventures is well recognized both by management practitioners and researchers (Cooper et al., 1994; Kennedy and Drennan, 2001). Second, due to the restructuring processes in organizations following intensiﬁed competition on the market worldwide, previous advantages connected with wage employment in established, mostly large enterprises such as job security or reward of loyalty currently offer less appeal, thus increasing the ¨ desirability of self-employment (Kolvereid, 1996; Luthje and Franke, 2003). Finally, the unemployment among graduates in Europe has been growing during recent years. Austrian universities have endeavored to response to changing framework conditions and new social demand since a decade. National experts evaluating entrepreneurship education at universities in Austria within Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (Apfelthaler et al., 2008) reveal a wide spectrum of educational activities undertaken at graduate and postgraduate level. Entrepreneurship as ﬁeld of study of business sciences, entrepreneurship courses for students of technical studies, business plan competitions, and advance training for business founders in local incubators (such as AplusB competence centers) are major examples of integration entrepreneurship in educational programs. Entrepreneurial intent has proven to be a primary predictor of future entrepreneurial behaviour (Katz, 1988; Reynolds, 1995; Krueger et al., 2000). Therefore, investigating what factors determine the entrepreneurial intent is a crucial issue in entrepreneurship research. In general, intent can be deﬁned as “a state of mind directing a person’s attention toward a speciﬁc object or a path in order to achieve something” (Vesalainen and Pihkala, 1999, p. 3). A common theoretical framework for models explaining pre-start up processes is the theory of planned behaviour that views behavioural intent as an immediate determinant of planned behaviour (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975). It applies particularly, when the behaviour is rare, hard to observe, or involves unpredictable time lags (Krueger et al., 2000). Entrepreneurship can be viewed as the type of planned behaviour, for which intention models are appropriate (Autio et al., 1997; Krueger et al., 2000). In previous research, personal and environment-based determinants of entrepreneurial intent such as personality traits, attitudes toward entrepreneurship, or social environment have been ¨ extensively discussed (Begley et al., 1997; Brandstatter, 1997; Davidsson, 1995; Franke ¨ and Luthje, 2004; Robinson et al., 1991; Segal et al., 2005). However, there have been only a limited number of studies addressing inﬂuence factors for students’ ¨thje and Franke, 2003; Wang and Wong, 2004). In entrepreneurial intention (Lu addition, research results are partly inconsistent. Speciﬁcally, it is not widely known whether environment or the individual characteristics drive the students’ career decision toward self-employment. A central question that arises is what factors determine entrepreneurial intent among students. The objective of the paper is to examine key factors inﬂuencing students’ intent to create a new venture. Based on previous research, we incorporate both internal and
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external inﬂuence factors into a model. In particular, we investigate the affect of individuals’ attitudes in general and toward self-employment on their choice of entrepreneurial carrier. Furthermore, we examine whether the perception of environment, including the university setting, has an impact on the students’ intent to found their own businesses. We tested the model in June 2005 on the Austrian student population encompassing various ﬁelds of study. The size of the population was about 35,040 students. The respondents received an e-mail with brief information about the survey’s objectives and a link to the questionnaire that was available online. A total of 2,838 students (8.10 per cent) completed the questionnaire. In the ﬁnal analysis, 2,124 cases were considered. A multiple linear regression model with attitudes and perceptions of environments as well as with selected control variables (age, gender, ﬁeld of study) was estimated to test the hypotheses. The paper consists of four main parts and a conclusion. The introduction is followed by the discussion of the results of previous research on entrepreneurial intent. Based upon the presented ﬁndings, the subsequent part is concerned with the development of a model of entrepreneurial intent among students. This section is followed by the outline of methodology used in the study and the discussion of regression results. Implications for future research and universities are included in the ﬁnal conclusions. Entrepreneurial intent in previous research Early research on entrepreneurship and factors inﬂuencing the decision to start a new venture concentrate on the personality characteristics of individuals. A number of personality factors have been recognized as relevant for entrepreneurial intent and success, e.g. need for achievement, risk taking propensity, internal locus of control, or innovativeness (Brockhaus and Horwitz, 1986). However, the personality approaches are not without critics (Gartner, 1988; Robinson et al., 1991). As an alternative to the personality theories, since the 1990s the attitude approach has become widely used for the prediction of the likelihood to found an enterprise (Douglas, 1999; Robinson et al., 1991). This study continues along these lines. According to the theory of planned behaviour, individual’s attitudes have an impact on behaviour via intention. In particular, there are three fundamental attitudinal antecedents of intent: personal attitude toward outcomes of the behaviour, perceived social norm, and perceived behavioural control (self-efﬁcacy). They have proven to account for a large part of the variance in intentions (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975). In general, attitudes can be deﬁned as “a learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favourable or unfavourable manner with respect to a given object” (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975, p. 6). They are relatively less stable than personality traits and can be changed both across time and across situations in virtue of the individual’s interaction with the environment (Robinson et al., 1991). Therefore, entrepreneurial attitudes may be inﬂuenced by educators and practitioners. In a new venture context, Robinson et al. (1991) emphasize the necessity to distinguish between general attitudes related to the broad psychological disposition of an individual and domain attitudes referring to the person’s more speciﬁc attitude toward entrepreneurship. The application of speciﬁc attitudes increases the accuracy of the measurement within the speciﬁed domain, thus improving the predictability of the behavioural intent. The importance of attitudes, both in general and toward entrepreneurship, in explaining
people’s aspiration to create a new venture has been recognized and empirically conﬁrmed in previous studies (Autio et al., 1997; Douglas, 1999; Krueger et al., 2000; Madl, 1997; Robinson et al., 1991). However, the empirical ﬁndings employed to support the direction and signiﬁcance of the attitude-intent relationship are partly inconsistent. The inconclusive evidence results primarily from a wide variation in research context and in the measurement of both independent and dependent variables. In the following, we concentrate predominately on empirical studies addressing entrepreneurial aspirations among students in order to draw conclusions for a model suitable for a university student context. Douglas (1999) has investigated the relationship between the intention to start one’s own business and individual’s attitudes toward income, independence, risk, and work effort. Results of his empirical study suggest that individuals with a more positive attitude toward independence (autonomy) and risk are characterized by a higher willingness to become entrepreneurs. However, people’s attitudes to work efforts correlate negatively with the intent to be self-employed. He also found no signiﬁcant difference with regard to the attitude toward income (money). Contrary to Douglas’s ﬁndings, Wang and Wong (2004) reported a non-signiﬁcant inﬂuence of risk-averse attitude on entrepreneurial interest. Autio et al. (1997) have also provided an insight into the role of general attitudes in entrepreneurial career choice. They examine the inﬂuence of attitudes toward achievement, autonomy, money, change, and competitiveness upon entrepreneurial conviction (the perceived ease of starting and running a new venture) viewed as the primary determinant of entrepreneurial intention. With the exception of competitiveness, they found individual’s general attitudes to have a high moderating inﬂuence on entrepreneurial conviction. In particular, the need for achievement and a positive attitude to autonomy emerge as inﬂuential attitudinal moderators of entrepreneurial conviction. Autio et al. (1997) additionally conﬁrm a positive impact of attitude toward entrepreneurship on entrepreneurial conviction. In a survey of university business students, Krueger et al. (2000) found support for the theory of planned behaviour. Personal attitudes toward the act, i.e. entrepreneurship, and self-efﬁciency, in particular, act as signiﬁcant predictors of entrepreneurial intention. However, they report a non-signiﬁcant impact of the remaining attitudinal variable, i.e. perceived social norm, on entrepreneurial intent. In their analysis of the entrepreneurial aspirations of business students at two universities in German-speaking countries and one of the leading USA academic ¨ institutions, Franke and Luthje (2004) found a strong positive relationship between the attitude toward self-employment and the intention to become an entrepreneur. In a survey of students of technical disciplines at the Massachusetts Institute of ¨ Technology, Luthje and Franke (2003) examine the impact of personal dispositions and of perceived environmental conditions for founding a new venture on entrepreneurial intent. They reveal that the attitude toward entrepreneurship is the most important determinant of entrepreneurial intention. Another stream of studies in the entrepreneurship discipline focuses on environment conditions as determinants of people’s aspiration to start a company. The environment can provide an explanation as to why the relationship between personal-related factors and entrepreneurial intent is not always deterministic in ¨thje and Franke, 2003). Aldrich and Zimmer (1986) have also stressed that nature (Lu individuals cannot be viewed as atomized decision-makers who operate as autonomous
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entities. Likewise, the representatives of the attitude approach to the prediction of entrepreneurship remark that attitudes do not exist “in isolation” (Robinson et al., 1991, p. 19). Therefore, it is reasonable to focus on the entrepreneurial process as an embedded process in a social, cultural and economic context. Previous research that recognized the importance of external inﬂuence factors for an individual’s interest to become an entrepreneur concentrated particularly on a person’s social networks, on the image of entrepreneurs in society, on socio-cultural norms, and on barriers to ¨ entrepreneurship (Autio et al., 1997; Begley et al., 1997; Luthje and Franke, 2003). However, empirical studies linking external conditions for entrepreneurship and individuals’ career choice also provide inconsistent results. Raijman (2001) examines the role of social networks in which individuals are embedded in predicting entrepreneurial intent. His results conﬁrm that having close relatives who are entrepreneurs increases the willingness to be self-employed. Begley et al. (1997) analyse the impact of four socio-cultural conditions of entrepreneurship, i.e. importance of work, value of innovation, shame of failure and status of entrepreneurship in a society, on business students’ interest in becoming an entrepreneur in seven different countries. The social status of entrepreneurship emerges as a good predictor of entrepreneurial interest. They reported a non-signiﬁcant inﬂuence of shame of failure and relevance of work in a society. Finally, they found a negative relationship between value of innovation and intent, i.e. individuals who believed innovation was highly regarded were less likely to want to ¨ start a company. Luthje and Franke (2003) demonstrate that the student’s entrepreneurial intent is also directly affected by perceived entrepreneurship-related barriers and support factors. Speciﬁcally, the more favourable students perceived support actions for entrepreneurship to be, the stronger their entrepreneurial intention was. When students realized a hostile environment for business founders, e.g. credit conditions as being too restrictive, they were less likely to become entrepreneurs irrespective of their attitude toward self-employment. In another study, Franke and ¨ Luthje (2004) examine the inﬂuence of the university environment on entrepreneurial intent. Results of their study suggest that the lower level of student’s founding intention follows from a negative appraisal of the university’s activities to provide students with the knowledge required to start a business and to support the process of new venture creation actively. In addition, the differences in entrepreneurial intent relative to the individual’s perception of the university environment were signiﬁcant and stronger than the differences with regard to personality traits, attitudes and ¨ socio-economic environmental factors. Contrary to Franke and Luthje (2004), Autio et al. (1997) found support provided by the university environment to have a negative impact on entrepreneurial intent. The partial inconsistency of the ﬁndings of previous research indicates that there is still a necessity to improve our understanding of the preconditions of entrepreneurial intent. In particular, it seems to be crucial to develop interactive models with the aim of explaining entrepreneurial behaviour as a function of the person and the environment conditions. Model of entrepreneurial intent Based on previous research, we have developed a model of entrepreneurial intent that incorporates both personal and environment-related inﬂuence factors. Speciﬁcally, the
proposed model focuses on three constructs to predict the entrepreneurial intent, i.e. the general attitudes, the attitude toward entrepreneurship, and the perception of environment conditions. The constructs are expected to explore preconditions of entrepreneurial intent (Figure 1). As mentioned above, attitudes have been proven to explain approximately 50 per cent of the variance in intentions (Autio et al., 1997). In a new venture context, it is reasonable to distinguish between general attitudes of an individual and speciﬁc attitudes toward entrepreneurship (Robinson et al., 1991). We investigate the impact of three general attitudinal dispositions on students’ interest to become an entrepreneur, i.e. attitudes toward change, money, and competitiveness. We hypothesize that students with a favourable attitude toward the given objects are more likely to have stronger aspirations to start a business. For example, individuals possessing a positive attitude toward change are characterized primarily by the propensity to view as attractive rather than threatening those situations that are ambiguous, changing rapidly, or unpredictable (Shane et al., 2003). Because the challenges associated with new venture creation are by nature unpredictable, persons with such a psychological disposition are more likely to see the founding of a company as an attractive career alternative. A favourable attitude toward money refers to individuals who view high incomes as a symbol of success (achievement) and as means to attain autonomy,
Students’ entrepreneurial intent 277
Figure 1. Model of entrepreneurial intent
freedom and power (Lim and Teo, 2003). Such features are often connected with the picture of successful entrepreneurs. Therefore, individuals with a positive attitude toward money may be more likely to want to be self-employed. A ﬁnal individual’s disposition – attitude toward competitiveness – pertains to the willingness to win. Such aspiration often cannot be quickly realized by young people employed in the already existing organizations. Therefore, individuals might tend to fulﬁl their desire to win by founding an own ﬁrm. A favourable attitude to competitiveness is thus viewed as a factor inﬂuencing entrepreneurial motivation positively (Autio et al., 1997). In view of the above, the following hypotheses related to the general attitudes of individuals will be tested: H1.1. Students with a positive attitude toward change are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs. H1.2. Students with a positive attitude toward money are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs. H1.3. Students with a positive attitude toward competitiveness are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs. The importance of domain-speciﬁc attitudes in explaining entrepreneurial intent and behaviour has been recognized in entrepreneurship research (Kolvereid, 1996; Robinson et al., 1991). In the model, attitude toward entrepreneurship also acts as a primary determinant of students’ willingness to be self-employed. This factor refers to the individual’s perception of the personal desirability of performing the behaviour, i.e. creation of a new venture, and corresponds to the attitude toward the act in the theory of planned behaviour (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975; Krueger et al., 2000). Obviously, the more students value the entrepreneurial career path, the stronger their interest to start ¨ a business (Franke and Luthje, 2004). Therefore, we hypothesize: H2. Students with a favourable attitude toward entrepreneurship are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs.
The intent to become self-employed does not depend exclusively on students’ attitudes connected with entrepreneurship. Due to the fact that individuals do not exist and do not act in isolation, they also take environmental conditions into account in their decision-making processes. So, for example, entrepreneurial education may affect students’ entrepreneurial behaviour positively (Hynes and Richardson, 2007). When students perceive the environment – including a university environment – as entrepreneurship-supportive, they can be more likely to create a new venture. On the other hand, when they observe a hostile environment for business founders (e.g., credit conditions that are too restrictive or insufﬁcient legitimacy of entrepreneurship), they can be less willing to become entrepreneurs irrespective of their attitude toward self-employment. Therefore, the following hypotheses related to the perception of environment will be tested: H3.1. Students who perceive entrepreneurship-related support positively are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs. H3.2. Students who perceive entrepreneurship-related barriers negatively are more likely to have a weaker intention to become entrepreneurs.
H3.3. Students who perceive university environment as entrepreneurshipsupportive are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs. Methodology and results Sample and method The population is built on students from four universities and three Universities of Applied Science in Austria. Those universities offer studies across a broad scope of ﬁelds: medicine, law, and technical, natural, human, social and business sciences. Since the middle of the 1990s all students in Austria are issued with an e-mail address, which enables them to manage their studies (register for courses, register for exams, and access information about courses). These e-mail addresses are administered by the universities. With the exception of students who started before the mid-1990s and those who do not want to have an e-mail address (range of 1-2 per cent) the universities have at their disposal the e-mail addresses of all students. Within this study, the universities provided us with this data source. With the exception of the technical university (for this university we obtained only 55 per cent of the addresses), the analysis refers to the almost whole population of the students of those seven institutions. The data collection was conducted in June 2005. The respondents received an e-mail with brief information about the survey’s objectives and a link to the questionnaire that was available online. The size of the population was about 35,040 students. A total of 2,838 students (8.10 per cent) completed the questionnaire. We excluded all cases with more than 30 per cent of missing data and did not consider those students for this analysis, who did not state their ﬁeld of study. Because we applied a control in this analysis regarding the difference of entrepreneurial intention of students in diverse study ﬁelds, we excluded all students with two or more registered studies in different faculties. Thus, the sample size was reduced to 2,124 cases. We have 628 students in the sample, who are registered in a degree course of “Business”, 496 students who study in the ﬁeld of “Humanities” and 1,000 students who have registered in a study of “Science and Technology”. The youngest students in the sample are 18 years old and the oldest student is about 63 years of age. The students are 24 years old on average. The age of the students varies in a statistically signiﬁcant manner with the faculty membership (ANOVA, p-value ,0,001). The students in Science or Technology are on average one year younger than students in Business and on average two years younger than students in the faculty of Humanities. The sample consists of 47.5 per cent men and 52.5 per cent women. The differences between gender and ﬁeld of study are statistically signiﬁcant (Chi-square test, p-value , 0.001) with more female students (80.2 per cent) of “Humanities” and more male students of Business (56.3 per cent) and “Science and Technology” (74.3 per cent) (see Table I). We are also able to report group mean differences concerning the items of entrepreneurial intention. We applied an ANOVA to test for signiﬁcant differences in the mean scale values. For all three scales, we can report signiﬁcant differences in the mean values in relation to faculty membership and gender. Male students and students who are registered in a study course of Business or Science and Technology are on average more interested in founding a business and have on average a higher intention to start a business in the next two or ﬁve years (see Table II).
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Business Age Mean SD Minimum Maximum Gender Men n % Women n % Table I. Sample descriptive Total n % 24.4 4.2 18 44 353 56.2 275 43.8 628 100.0 Humanities 25.0 6.1 18 63 398 80.2 98 19.8 496 100.0
Faculty Science/ technology 23.2 2.9 18 43 257 25.7 743 74.3 1,000 100.0 Total 24.0 4.3 18 63 1,008 47.5 1116 52.5 2,124 100.0
Entrepreneurial intent How likely to set up How likely to set up a business during the a business during the How interested in next ﬁve years? next two years? setting up a business? Business Humanities Science/ technology Man Woman Total Table II. Mean students entrepreneurial intention according faculty membership and gender Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD 3.44 1.24 3.04 1.24 3.32 1.23 3.48 1.24 3.08 1.22 3.29 1.25 1.73 0.94 1.56 0.86 1.60 0.88 1.74 0.95 1.51 0.82 1.63 0.90 2.58 1.14 2.30 1.07 2.44 1.13 2.65 1.13 2.23 1.08 2.45 1.13
Notes: Five-point Likert-scale with levels ranging from 1 ¼ “completely uninterested” to 5¼ “strongly interested” and 1 ¼ “very improbably” to 5 ¼ “very probably”; ANOVA to test for signiﬁcant differences in the mean scale values. For all three scales we can report signiﬁcant differences in the mean values in relation to faculty membership and gender
Missing values amounting to less than 30 per cent were replaced by using the EM-algorithm with NORM 2.03. In order to test the relationship between the attitudes, perception of environment, and entrepreneurial intent of the investigated students’ population, principal component analysis with Varimax rotation was employed to extract uncorrelated factors (Cohen et al., 2003). A multiple linear regression model with these factors was estimated to test the hypotheses. Previous research suggests that also demographic characteristics such as age or gender may substantially affect
entrepreneurial intent and behaviour (Shook et al., 2003). Therefore, we include age, age squared, and gender into the model. Due to the student context, we also control for the ﬁeld of study. The numeric variable age was included as linear and quadratic term to test the inverse u-shaped relationship between age and entrepreneurial intent. To control for gender a dummy variable for female students, and to control for faculty membership two dummies for students registered in a study course of “Business” and “Humanities” were included. Thus, the baseline categories in the regression model are male students registered in a study of “Science or Technology”. We have also tested the model for differences of effects for students in different ﬁelds of study by including interaction effects with the faculty dummies for all predictor variables (Fox, 1997). Because we could not detect any faculty differences in the effects between predictor variables and the entrepreneurial intention, we refrained from reporting these ﬁndings in the results section. This ﬁnding conﬁrms applicability of the model for different ﬁelds of studies in an Austrian context. Measurement To measure the entrepreneurial intent, general attitudes, attitude toward entrepreneurship, and perception of the environment, we adopted scales from Autio et al. (1997). We measured all items on a ﬁve point Likert-scale with the levels 1 ¼ “completely uninterested” to 5 ¼ “strongly interested”, 1 ¼ “very improbably” to 5 ¼ “very probably” and 1 ¼ “strongly disagree” to 5 ¼ “strongly agree”, depending of the question. All items used in the study are listed in Table III. In previous research, entrepreneurial intention has been measured in different ways. Both an individual’s preference for self-employment and a time dimension of this career path have been taken into account. We measured entrepreneurial intention with three items capturing both perspectives. General attitudes comprise three constructs, i.e. attitude toward competitiveness (two items), attitude toward money (two items), and attitude toward change (two items). The attitude toward entrepreneurship was measured also by two items. The perception of the university environment refers to the degree to which the university is perceived as a supporting organization to start a new venture. The construct was measured by a set of four statements. The perception of entrepreneurship-related support relates to the degree to which external conditions to start a business, particularly ﬁnancing factors, are perceived positively. This construct includes two items and the perception of entrepreneurship-related barriers consists of three items. We perform principal component analysis to extract uncorrelated factors for further analysis (Cohen et al., 2003). The reliability of the measures was tested by estimation of the following coefﬁcients (Homburg and Giering, 1996): the indicator reliability, the Cronbach Alpha, the factor reliability, and the average variance explained. All values of the indicator reliability are above 0.4, thus indicator reliability is given. For all constructs the factor reliability and the average variance extracted are above the required threshold of 0.7 and 0.5, respectively. The Cronbach Alpha for all measures is for four out of the eight constructs above 0.7. The constructs of attitude toward competitiveness, attitude toward entrepreneurship, environmental support and environmental barriers show a Cronbach Alpha value lower than 0.7, but all other reliability measures are fulﬁlled. Thus, the results of the reliability of constructs can be considered to be satisfying (see Table IV).
Students’ entrepreneurial intent 281
n 1. 2.
Items How interested are you in setting up your own business? How likely is it that you will set up (another) business during the next two years? How likely is it that you will set up (another) business during the next ﬁve years? In my university, people are actively encouraged to pursue their own ideas The courses provide students with the knowledge required to start a new company There is a well functioning support infrastructure in place to support the start-up of new ﬁrms The creative atmosphere inspires us to develop ideas for new businesses Banks do not readily give credit to start up companies It is hard to ﬁnd capital providers There are not sufﬁcient subsidies available for new companies Qualiﬁed consultant and service support for new companies are not available The bureaucratic procedures for founding a new company are unclear I work harder in situations where my performance is compared against that of others It annoys me when other people perform better than I do If you have a high income, that is a sign that you have had success in your life It is important for me to make a lot of money I ﬁnd working in stable and routinized environments boring I need constant change to remain stimulated, even if this would mean higher uncertainty I’d rather be my own boss than have a secure job I’d rather found a new company than be the manager of an existing one
Construct Entrepreneurial intent
3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18.
Environment support Environment barriers
General attitude toward competitiveness General attitude toward money General attitude toward change
Table III. Terms in analysis
Attitude toward entrepreneurship
Regression results and discussion The regression analysis indicates that there are differences in the entrepreneurial intention concerning gender, ﬁeld of study, and age. The coefﬁcient of the dummy for female students is negative to a highly signiﬁcant degree. Thus male students have a higher intention toward entrepreneurship. Previous research also suggests that women – including female students – have a less positive attitude toward entrepreneurship and a lower desire to found an own ﬁrm than their male counterparts (Ede et al., 1998; Kourilsky and Walstad, 1998). In this respect, it is worth reporting gender related results of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (Apfelthaler et al., 2008). In Austria, 61.9 per cent of all individuals involved in entrepreneurial activities in 2007 were male and 39.1 per cent – female. There are
No. of items 3
n 3 2 1 17 18 16 15 13 14 20 19 8 9 11 12 10 6 4 7 5
Factor loadings 0.897 0.795 0.764 0.885 0.862 0.888 0.879 0.847 0.770 0.862 0.857 0.824 0.818 0.824 0.773 0.673 0.813 0.797 0.788 0.784
Indicator reliability 0.805 0.632 0.583 0.783 0.744 0.789 0.772 0.718 0.594 0.743 0.735 0.679 0.670 0.680 0.598 0.453 0.661 0.635 0.622 0.615
Cronbach Factor Alpha reliability 0.746 0.860
Average variance explained 0.673
Students’ entrepreneurial intent 283
Attitude toward change Attitude toward money Attitude toward competitiveness Attitude toward entrepreneurship Environmental support Environmental barriers University environment
2 2 2 2 2 3
0.736 0.760 0.538 0.699 0.603 0.674
0.866 0.877 0.792 0.850 0.805 0.802
0.763 0.781 0.656 0.739 0.674 0.577
0.633 Table IV. Factor loadings and reliability of scales
different reasons for the lower intent and involvement to be self-employed among females. First, women entrepreneurship is usually more constrained by limited ﬁnancial and social resources (Harris and Gibson, 2008). Second, the failure rate among female entrepreneurs is higher than is the case for male business founders. We may assume that both aspects reduce female students’ enthusiasm and willingness to be entrepreneurs. In addition to that, the issue of family planning cannot be neglected in the reasoning for the lower intent to found a ﬁrm among female students. In Austria, transition from a traditional (patriarchal) to a more egalitarian family model has been observed; however, it is a lasting, generations-encompassing process. The estimated parameter of the dummy for business studies is signiﬁcantly positive. Thus, students registered in a study of “Business” have a higher entrepreneurial intention than students in the ﬁeld of “Humanities” and “Science or Technology”. It is consistent with the results of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (Apfelthaler et al., 2008). According to this report, students of business sciences have the most extensive possibilities to learn entrepreneurship. The two coefﬁcients for age and age squared are signiﬁcant to a level of 0.1 per cent. The sign of the coefﬁcient of age squared is negative. So, we were able to detect an inverse u-shaped relationship between entrepreneurial intention and the student’s age. There are two issues worth discussion in this context. First, decisions pertaining to career choice usually reﬂect a cognitive process, in which work aspirations change with the increase of career-related knowledge and experience (Kruger et al., 2000).
Second, the career-making process is also affected by behavioural factors such as uncertainty avoidance that reﬂect the life experience of the individual (Henry et al., 2003). In the case of young students who have already ﬁnished high school, we observe a low entrepreneurial intent. Such young individuals usually do not have any precise plans regarding their occupational future or any knowledge about the nature of entrepreneurship at that time. With increasing age, students’ entrepreneurial intent grows. This might reﬂect an increase in career-related knowledge of later-stage students who are close to graduation and usually have precise work plans. The asymmetry regarding the perceived and factual picture about self-employment is at that time lower than in case of their younger colleagues. So, if they decide to be entrepreneurs they will probably follow their aspiration. In addition to that, such young people are usually very open to new experiences and various career opportunities, including being entrepreneurs. Finally, we detect that entrepreneurial intent declines as students exceed the age of 35. It might be due to the fact that uncertainty avoidance of individuals usually increases in the course of time due to the ´ higher consciousness about potential risks (Bhide, 2000; Schwarz et al., 2005). Entrepreneurship is strongly associated with risk of failure due to the liabilities of newness and smallness (Cooper et al., 1994). So, older individuals may be more likely to avoid such kinds of uncertainty. In Figures 2 and 3, the relationship between age and intent depending on gender and ﬁeld of study is presented.
Figure 2. Estimated relationship between age and intention conditional to gender
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Figure 3. Estimated relationship between age and intention conditional to faculty membership
Concerning attitude we can report three highly signiﬁcant relationships with entrepreneurial intention. The coefﬁcients of attitude toward change, attitude toward money and attitude toward entrepreneurship are signiﬁcantly positive to a level of 0.1 per cent. The estimated coefﬁcients for the attitude toward change and the attitude toward money are 0.093 and 0.067, respectively. The signiﬁcant coefﬁcients indicate that H1.1 and H1.2 have to be supported. The attitude toward entrepreneurship appears as the most relevant predictor of entrepreneurial intent among students (b ¼ 0:378, t-value ¼ 19.517). Therefore, H2 is supported. The estimated parameter for attitude toward competitiveness is not signiﬁcant. This may be due to the fact that a positive attitude toward competitiveness is necessary not only for entrepreneurs in order to achieve success. This attitude has also become very important for employees since the work environment has changed. H1.3 has to be rejected. Entrepreneurial intent is also predicted signiﬁcantly by external factors. The results conﬁrm that a positive perception of university actions to foster entrepreneurship leads to a stronger willingness to start an own business in the future (b ¼ 0:066, p , 0.001). Thus, H3.3 is supported. We cannot report a signiﬁcant relationship between entrepreneurial intention and the environmental support (H3.1) or between intention and environmental barriers (H3.2). Thus, these two hypotheses have to be rejected (see Table V).
Variable Intercept Age Age-squared Woman Business Humanities Attitude toward change Attitude toward money Attitude toward competitiveness Attitude toward entrepreneurship Environmental support Environmental barriers University environment Residual standard error R-squared Adj. R-squared F-statistic with 12 and 2,111 df
Estimate 2 2.181 * * 1.436 * * 2 0.203 * * 2 0.274 * * 0.201 * * 0.048 0.093 * * 0.067 * * 0.009 0.378 * * 0.007 2 0.030 0.066 * * 0.883 0.230 0.226 52.630 * *
S.E 0.356 0.245 0.041 0.044 0.048 0.056 0.019 0.019 0.019 0.019 0.019 0.019 0.020
t-value 2 6.134 5.853 2 4.973 2 6.259 4.196 0.859 4.816 3.452 0.470 19.517 0.363 2 1.561 3.370
Table V. Regression results
Note: * * Level of signiﬁcance: p , 0.001
In sum, Austrian students’ intent to found their own business is inﬂuenced primarily by individual dispositions like attitudes toward entrepreneurship, change and money. The effects are consistent with the results of past research placed in other country/cultural contexts. Regarding external inﬂuence factors such as ﬁnancial support for founders or socio-cultural norms existing in the local community, only the university environment emerges as an intent predictor. These results are thus partly contrary to the effects detected in a non-Austrian context that report a strong impact of the non-university environment conditions on students’ intent. In the context of Austrian students, university courses on entrepreneurship and small business management as well as incubators located on campus appear to be crucial for waking students’ enthusiasm and interest in business ownership (see Table VI). Conclusions In this paper, we have investigated determinants of entrepreneurial intent among students. Attitudes have proven to be important for predicting entrepreneurial aspiration. In addition, environment-based factors have been recognized as relevant aspects. Consequently, we have developed a model comprising those factors. In particular, we have investigated three constructs, i.e. the general attitudes (toward money, change, and competitiveness), the attitude toward entrepreneurship, and the perception of environment conditions. With the exception of the attitude toward competitiveness, all other paths regarding individual dispositions are signiﬁcant. Pertaining to the environment conditions, we could detect only signiﬁcant effects of the university on students’ interest in business founding. Other environment factors such as ﬁnancial support for entrepreneurs or bureaucratic procedures related to opening a ﬁrm have no impact on entrepreneurial intention among students in Austria. These
Hypothesis H1.1 H1.2 H1.3 H2 H3.1
Result Students with a positive attitude toward change are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs Students with a positive attitude toward money are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs Students with a positive attitude toward competitiveness are more likely to have a stronger intention to become an entrepreneur Students with a favourable attitude toward entrepreneurship are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs Students who perceive entrepreneurship-related support (loans of banks, capital providers) positively are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs Students who perceive entrepreneurship-related barriers negatively are more likely to have a weaker intention to become entrepreneurs Students who perceive the university environment as entrepreneurship-supportive are more likely to have a stronger intention to become entrepreneurs Supported Supported
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Not supported Supported Not supported
H3.2 H 3.3
Not supported Supported Table VI. Summary of hypotheses tested
results are rather contrasting to the effects discovered in past research on graduate entrepreneurship in other cultural contexts. However, it has to be noted that we have not evaluated environment conditions themselves but relied our analysis on students’ subjective judgments. We were also able to detect signiﬁcant differences in entrepreneurial intent regarding gender, age and ﬁeld of study. Similarly to past research, we found male students to be more enthusiastic about business ownership than their female counterparts. In this respect, it is worth noting that female entrepreneurship in Austria increased in recent years (Apfelthaler et al., 2008; Sammer and Schneider, 2006) but the transition toward a more democratic family model, which would enable the young females to consider and choose entrepreneurship as a career path to a higher extent, has not yet been completed. Next, we were able to detect an inverse u-shaped relationship between entrepreneurial intention and students’ age. Finally, we observed that students of humanistic subjects have the lowest intent to found a new business. Students of business sciences who have the widest opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship at the Austrian universities have the highest interest in business ownership. Despite variation in the intent level between students of different ﬁelds of study, we have not found any signiﬁcant differences in the effects of predictor variables on the entrepreneurial intent. There are some limitations that have to be considered by interpreting the results. First, we have included only selected general attitudes in the model. Even though we believe that these indicators are crucial to entrepreneurial intent as past research reveals, there are also further attitudes that might be important in the
entrepreneurial context such as the attitude toward autonomy. Originally, we have integrated that attitude in the model. However, our data analysis has showed that the attitude toward autonomy strongly correlates with the speciﬁc attitude toward entrepreneurship. So, we have excluded this factor from the analysis. Also, the Cronbach Alpha of some constructs used in our analysis (e.g. attitude toward competitiveness) lies slightly below the satisfactory level of 0.7. But due to the fact that all other reliability measures are fulﬁlled with respect to those constructs, they have been considered in the analysis. In order to increase students’ intention to become entrepreneurs, several actions can be recommended. The results indicate that entrepreneurial intent is strongly affected by the perception of university environment. So, in the context of Austrian students, university courses on entrepreneurship and small business management as well as incubators located on campus play a central role in waking students’ enthusiasm and interest in business ownership. But signiﬁcant differences in the intent level between students of different disciplines indicate that the universities should more extensively address entrepreneurship education to students of other subjects than business sciences. Besides theoretical subjects, an important component of entrepreneurial training is a social learning process. In this respect, inviting successful entrepreneurs (role models) to the lectures or enabling students small business experience via interaction with local entrepreneurs can be viewed as supportive actions. Developing entrepreneurial skills as crucial life capacities should be the main target of all university faculties. A further important result of this study is that a positive attitude toward entrepreneurship increases students’ willingness to become entrepreneurs. Striving for autonomy can be strengthened by assignment of personal responsibility. In this context, long term activities in the educational system are necessary. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (Apfelthaler et al., 2008) reveals that the situation of entrepreneurial training, which develops essential life skills and sensitises scholars to an entrepreneurial career alternative, is dramatically different in Austrian schools than at the universities. Promoting role models and organizing business idea competitions with attractive awards in secondary schools might be useful steps toward increasing enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and autonomy among young people. Students’ decision about their occupational future is a complex process. A large body of literature on entrepreneurial intent addresses person-related perspectives but neglects various external circumstances that might inﬂuence students’ career choice to start-up a business. Future research should place more emphasis on both human and environmental factors. In this respect, besides regional infrastructure and university education for entrepreneurs, students’ social networks (family and friends) should be included in the discussion. In addition to that, a transition process from entrepreneurial intent to factual entrepreneurship is worth examining.
Notes 1. Precisely, Krueger et al. (2000) have tested the theory of planned behaviour and Shaper’s model of the entrepreneurial event. As mentioned before, in the theory of planned behaviour attitudes have proven to be the primary determinant of behavioural intention (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975). In particular, there are three attitudinal antecedents of intent: personal attitude toward outcomes of the behavior, perceived social norm, and perceived behavioral control
(self-efﬁcacy). In the model of the entrepreneurial event, intention depends upon perceived desirability (personal attractiveness of new venture creation), perceived feasibility, and propensity to act upon opportunities (Krueger et al., 2000). 2. Klagenfurt University, University of Graz, Technical University of Graz, Medical University of Graz. 3. University of Applied Science Joanneum, University of Applied Science Campus 02, Carinthian University of Applied Science.
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