We have started including the question “What are your ambitions for your children?” in surveys given to poor people around the world. The results are striking. Everywhere we have asked, the most common dream of the poor is that their children become government workers. Among very poor households in Udaipur, for example, 34 percent of the parents would like to see their son become a government teacher and another 41 percent want him to have a nonteaching government job; 18 percent more want him to be a salaried employee in a private firm. For girls, 31 percent would like her to be a teacher, 31 percent would want her to have another kind of government job, and 19 percent want her to be a nurse. The poor don’t see becoming an entrepreneur as something to aspire to. The emphasis on government jobs, in particular, suggests a desire for stability, as these jobs tend to be very secure even when they are not very exciting. And in fact, stability of employment appears to be the one thing that distinguishes the middle classes from the poor. In our eighteen-country data set, middle-class people are much more likely to have jobs that pay them weekly or monthly, rather than daily, which is a crude way to separate temporary and more permanent jobs.
As Ha-Joon Chang points out in his essay "Poverty, Entrepreneurship, and Development," poor societies suffer from a terrific surplus of entrepreneurs, and this has nothing to do with some kind of culturally established faith in the almighty market, but because they have no other opportunities or ways to make ends meet in a society that distributes many of the necessities of life commercially.
In the US, were is often told that thing our hearts most long for is the chance to run our own business. We are told all that it takes to be the boss of you is a little ingenuity and resourcefulness. We are told that happiness is found when our true entrepreneurial spirit is expressed. When we lose a good job in the government or a corporation to some budget cuts, we soon hear from every side of the society that this is a golden opportunity to express this entrepreneurial spirit. But anyone who has ever owned a small business knows it's something you should not do without deep pockets and a commitment that's close to fanatical. And this is the point: It's not just that it's better and much more stable to work of a large organization, but many of us do not want to spend so much of our short lives on the massive amount of time and energy that's needed to keep a small and vulnerable business afloat. For most poor people in the world, to be left with nothing but entrepreneurship as a door to a living is to be condemned to boredom and poverty.