Unequal Hard Times: The Influence of the Great Recession on Gender Bias in Entrepreneurial Financing

Sarah Thébaud, Amanda J. Sharkey

Sociological Science, January 6, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a1

Prior work finds mixed evidence of gender bias in lenders’ willingness to approve loans to entrepreneurs during normal macroeconomic conditions. However, various theories predict that gender bias is more likely to manifest when there is greater uncertainty or when decision-makers’ choices are under greater scrutiny from others. Such conditions characterized the lending market in the recent economic downturn. This article draws on an analysis of panel data from the Kauffman Firm Survey to investigate how the Great Recession affected the gender gap in entrepreneurial access to financing, net of individual and firm-level characteristics. Consistent with predictions, we find that women-led firms were significantly more likely than men-led firms to encounter difficulty in acquiring funding when small-business lending contracted in 2009 and 2010. We assess the consistency of our results with two different theories of bias or discrimination. Our findings shed light on mechanisms that may contribute to disadvantages for women entrepreneurs and, more broadly, highlight how the effects of ascribed status characteristics (e.g., gender) on economic decision-making may vary systematically with macroeconomic conditions.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Sarah Thébaud: Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara.  Email: sthebaud@soc.ucsb.edu.

Amanda J. Sharkey: Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.  Email: sharkey@chicagobooth.edu.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by a National Science Foundation Fellowship and the Center for the Study of Social Organization at Princeton University. We thank Paul DiMaggio, Heather Haveman, Michael Jensen, Johan Chu, Elizabeth Pontikes, Chris Yenkey, seminar participants at Cornell, the Kauffman Foundation, Princeton, and the University of Michigan, and Deputy Editor Olav Sorenson for helpful comments and feedback.

  • Citation: Thébaud, Sarah and Amanda J. Sharkey. 2016. “Unequal Hard Times: The Influence of the Great Recession on Gender Bias in Entrepreneurial Financing.” Sociological Science 3: 1-31.
  • Received: June 12, 2015.
  • Accepted: August 21, 2015.
  • Editors: Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a1

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