Sunday, February 16, 2014

When it comes to forecasting the economy, entrepreneurs don't have an "optimism bias"

Unfortunately this ability to forecast accurately, doesn't hold true to our own businesses (HBR):

The researchers drew on survey data from 1996 to 2009 asking Swedish citizens whether the Swedish economy had improved from 12 months prior, as well as whether they believed it would improve in the 12 months ahead. Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs — defined as those self-employed — were more optimistic in both cases, and this relationship held even once gender, age, education, and income were accounted for.

To examine whether this amounted to an actual bias, the researchers then compared these answers to changes in GDP to assess the accuracy of respondents’ beliefs. “Entrepreneurs make smaller forecast errors than non-entrepreneurs,” the authors write, a finding that once again held when gender, age, education, and income were taken into account.

Perhaps the biggest contribution of this research is the simple reminder that just because someone is optimistic, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Though pessimists tend to claim the mantle of “realism” to justify their beliefs, in some cases it’s actually the optimists who deserve the title. There remains evidence that entrepreneurs are unrealistically optimistic when it comes to the fate of their own businesses, but in terms of the economy, their optimism has historically been justified.

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