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Global Entrepreneur Trends: Americans More Upbeat, Older

Heesun Wee
Thursday, 17 Jan 2013 | 11:19 AM ET
Joshua Hodge Photography | The Agency Collection | Getty Images

Signaling more Americans are feeling buoyant about their economic prospects, attitudes about entrepreneurship are at the highest level in 14 years, according to a new global study released Thursday.

Roughly "43 percent of Americans see good opportunities for entrepreneurship in their area," said Donna J. Kelley, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, and one of the report's authors.

The report shows growing numbers of so-called opportunity entrepreneurs. The group includes Americans who are leaping into entrepreneurship based on their perception of promising opportunities ahead. This is in contrast to the depths of the recession, when more people started businesses because they couldn't find jobs and had no other option — a trend called necessity entrepreneurship.

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The opportunity perception reading among Americans was 37 percent in 2008, then tumbled to 28 percent in 2009. The level edged up to 35 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2011. "Now we're seeing a jump to 43 percent in 2012," Kelley said.

The data is part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2012 Global Report, which was released earlier Thursday at an annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It's the 14th annual survey of entrepreneurship worldwide, and the largest single study of its kind. U.S. opportunity perception is the highest since 1999, the group's first global report.

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Age Is a Good Thing

The study also found America boasts one of the highest levels of entrepreneurs aged 35 to 44 years old in the world. "While most economies have the highest participation in the 25-34 age group, the U.S. has the highest participation in the next age category," Kelley said.

From California's Silicon Valley to New York's Silicon Alley, small companies fueled by 20-somethings capture most of the attention, but in fact, "older entrepreneurs have received little attention, but may be an important force in the future," Kelley said.

In the developing world that's facing a growing, aging population, there may be more work opportunities in entrepreneurship. "This may be a viable area of focus for policy and other initiatives," Kelley said.

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Written by CNBC's Heesun Wee. Follow her on Twitter @heesunwee

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