Document Type



University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



Economics | Labor Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


With this document, the Research and Training Center on Rural Rehabilitation Services prompts us to think anew about the possibilities of self-employment. Self-employment is a part of the American dream. People are drawn to the notion of working for themselves in a way they are not attracted to working for someone else. Americans think of self-employment as a way to control their own futures and to make work more fulfilling. Self-employment is individualistic, but also has a strong connection to the cultural make-up of the country. It stresses independence and self-sufficiency, but is also believed to promote economic vitality for the country as a whole. It is often thought to be a route to economic well-being, but may be accepted as simply a way to get by without yielding to someone else’s control over one’s work. In short, the psychological and social dimensions of self-employment speak to some ancient and unshakable part of the human psyche.


employment and vocational rehabilitation, self-employment, rural, disability

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


There were many people who contributed to this monograph on self-employment. An observation by Bob Donaldson, past Director of the Montana Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services, that self-employment appeared to be used as an employment outcome more frequently in rural areas, sparked the interest of Tom Seekins, Director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC: Rural). It was because of Dr. Seekins’ interest in this predominately essential role that entrepreneurship and self-employment play in many rural individuals pursuit of economic independence that the RTC: Rural’s research was conducted and this monograph was published.Articles co-authored by and describing the pioneering work of other programs also need to be acknowledged. RTC: Rural gratefully acknowledges the collaboration and contributions of Kay Schriner, Dale Verstegen, and Ann Temkin.Within RTC: Rural, Craig Ravesloot, Cheryl Vandenberg, and Peg Plimpton contributed to the research effort. Thanks go to Alexandra Enders, RTC: Rural’s Training Director, for her input on public policy and self-employment, and to Nick Baker, RTC: Rural’s staff writer, for editing and preparing the monograph for publication.RTC: Rural would like to acknowledge the contributions of Joe Mathews, John Balsam, and Paul Larson. Joe Mathews, administrator of Montana’s Rehabilitative/Visual Services Division was interested in and supportive of RTC: Rural’s work in self-employment. It was through the efforts of Montana’s State Vocational Rehabilitation agency, and its Missoula office in particular, that much of the background information on the use of self-employment as a vocational rehabilitation employment outcome was developed. John Balsam, regional director of Montana Business Connections at The University of Montana spent many hours with the editor discussing the prevalence, importance, and role of self-employment in rural areas. Paul Larson, professor of management at The University of Montana, provided his expertise in the area of entrepreneurship and business development.Others who are pioneering in the area of self-employment for people with disabilities contributed.Thanks to the vocational rehabilitation counselors who participated in RTC: Rural’s initial interviews, and telephone and mail surveys. Thanks also to the research committee members of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation for their assistance, and to the state agencies that forwarded self-employment policies and procedures and who granted permission for RTC: Rural to survey counselors in their states.RTC: Rural--Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural CommunitiesThe RTC: Rural also acknowledges and thanks the Missoulian, the Journal of Rehabilitation Administration, the Goodwill FORUM, and the Journal of Disability Policy Studies for their permission to reprint articles, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for supporting this important work for people with disabilities (grant number G0087C0228), and to RTC: Rural’s NIDRR project officer, Delores Watkins, for her encouragement and support.

Project Number