There are several anecdotal or conventional ways of dealing with this question.
First, as Western populations age, even statistically the average age of entrepreneurs can be expected to increase. Second, the rapid rise of new technologies and new media suggest that younger generations now hold the key to future entrepreneurship. Third, again, as Western societies age and the age of statutory retirements is pushed back, entrepreneurship among older generations can be expected to rise for those who would tend to leave their workplace to start new business before the retirement, but decline for those who would normally start business after retirement.
Thus, despite conventional perceptions that all new entrepreneurs seem to be young ICT leaders, the economic reasoning would suggest that the answer to the question above can go both ways.
As far as evidence goes, US-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation - a seasoned research think tank into entrepreneurship - recently (June 2009) published an intriguing study titled The Coming Entrepreneurship Boom, authored by Dane Stangler. The study is available here.
The main conclusions of the study are:
- Several facts have emerged in the course of Kauffman Foundation research that indicate the United States might be on the cusp of an entrepreneurship boom—not in spite of an aging population but because of it:
- As the economic recession plagues the job market, more and more "baby-boomers" are becoming entrepreneurs
- The decline of lifetime employment, the experience and knowledge of the age group, longer lifespan, and the effect of the current recession are all factors contributing to the increase in entrepreneurial activity in the baby boom generation
- Key findings: In every single year from 1996 to 2007, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those aged 20-34, averaging a rate of entrepreneurial activity roughly one-third larger than their youngest counterparts
- The 20-34 age bracket has the lowest rate of entrepreneurial activity
- Long-term employment has fallen dramatically for people ages 35-64 over the past fifty years
- With longer life expectancies and greater health in later life, older generations may continue to start new firms—or mentor young entrepreneurs
- Since the first Internet-era recession, transaction costs and barriers to entry have fallen for entrepreneurs of every age
- The larger effects of the recession and economic trends—away from lifetime jobs and toward more new companies—will gain even greater cultural traction in favor of entrepreneurship by the older workers
- Emerging regulations aiming to prevent the rise of too-big-to-fail organizations also may help create a more market-oriented society. "We will see increasing numbers of new, smaller firms as they compete and cooperate; challenge incumbents; and, perhaps, rise and fall at faster rates", says the author.
Of course, one cannot make the same direct comparatives to the EU, where pension benefits are often much stronger, the market pricing of risks for entrepreneurs are much more distorted, returns to entrepreneurship are more restricted and overall culture of risk taking is less developed (except, as we have now learned, for the too-big-to-fail banks, of course).