This study empirically addresses the differences between social and commercial entrepreneurship by using the largest available quantitative data source, namely the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2009 survey on social entrepreneurship in Belgium and The Netherlands. We use a combination of exploratory statistical analyses and qualitative techniques to generate propositions on the organizations and initiatives that social entrepreneurs are involved in and contrast them with our understanding of commercial entrepreneurs. This study contributes to answer the call for more quantitative research and simultaneously argues that, despite the potential contribution of large-scale data, the validity and reliability of measurement instruments cannot be seen independently from their particular context. With this important observation in mind, our findings indicate a predominance of younger social organizations or initiatives that rely to a great extent on government funding, whereas earned income is limited. Furthermore, social entrepreneurs show less ambition in terms of employment growth and progression to more mature stages of the entrepreneurial process compared with commercial entrepreneurs.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Social Entrepreneurship
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Bacq, S., den Hartog, W., & Hoogendoorn, B. (2013). A Quantitative Comparison of Social and Commercial Entrepreneurship: Toward a More Nuanced Understanding of Social Entrepreneurship Organizations in Context. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 4(1), 40–68. doi:10.1080/19420676.2012.758653