Health Insurance Data

Is job-lock (the locking of a person into a specific job beyond when they would like to be there) occurring in the U.S.? 

Are entrepreneurs being forced to stay in wage jobs, working for someone else, because of the fear of losing their health insurance? 

Below are a few pieces of research/data sources that I've come across recently that are attempting to make research contributions to this question. 

But before I comment on them and their source data, it has to be said that all of these research efforts are attempting to get at the impact of health insurance provision on entrepreneurial entry in the United States but because of limitations in how the data is collected none of the efforts really gets at the real issue. 

Simply put, there is a belief that more potentially innovative nascent entrepreneurs are kept from starting a business (or doing so full-time) because they are tied to a job in which they receive health insurance. 

None of these data sources/research is able to ask this exact question and realizing the limits of their data to the analysis is critical. 

Someday, I hope there will be some data that can really inform this question more directly, but I am not currently aware of any such data in development. I certainly am of the crowd that believes this problem to be huge.

  • Two sets of authors (Maria Minniti and Yunwei Gai; Ian Michael Breunig) have papers out using the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey at Department of Health and Human Services. This data is rich in that it gives information on where the insurance is coming from and also the work experience of all primary members of the house. The downside of this data in my mind is that it forces the authors to use a self-employment measure for entrepreneurship, which is not typically associated with high-growth firms.

  • Rob Fairlie, Kanika Kapur, and Susan Gates in a forthcoming journal article Is Employer-Based Health Insurance a Barrier to Entrepreneurship? take a look at the Current Population Survey and specifically make use of its unique design to track transitions to self-employment around the age 65. As such the authors are able to infer inhibitions at the time individuals become eligible for government-backed insurance and make attempts to measure job lock more broadly from this population. 

  • Scott Shane and Alicia Robb have analyzed the Kauffman Firm Survey questions asked of its panel of new businesses started in 2004 and finds little evidence of significant annual change in health insurance provision among the panel. 

Past posts related to health insurance:

Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust Employer Health Benefits Annual Survey

More on Medical Insurance

NFIB on Medical Insurance

Surveys on Health Insurance #2


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e.j. reedy data maven

E. J. Reedy

As a director in Research and Policy, E.J. Reedy oversees the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s research initiatives related to education, human capital development, and data.

Since joining the Kauffman Foundation in 2003, Reedy has been significantly involved in the coordination of the Foundation’s entrepreneurship and innovation data-related initiatives, including the Kauffman Firm Survey, for which he served as a principal investigator, and the Foundation’s multi-year series of symposiums on data, as well as many web-related projects and initiatives. He is a globally recognized expert in entrepreneurship and innovation measurement and has consulted for a variety of agencies.