Two trends are coalescing in ways that threaten the nation’s small businesses, particularly the underrepresented women, minorities, veterans and immigrants for whom entrepreneurship represents both a chance at personal achievement and a way to climb the economic ladder.

The first, developing over the past few years and just now coming into focus, is a nationwide decline in the number of new businesses being created. Dubbed a “startup slump” by economists, it is a decline that — unsurprisingly — became acute during the Great Recession, yet unlike jobs and housing, failed to rebound during the recovery. According to the U.S. Census, only 8% of businesses were formed in 2015, down from a robust 12.5% of businesses that were new in 1980. Since 2000, the slump has even expanded to include the seemingly invincible tech sector. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., cited a number of reasons for the nation’s entrepreneurial slump when they recently introduced the bipartisan Enhancing Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century Act, including rising student debt, an aging workforce and slowing population growth (native born and immigrants) and industry concentration. The act notes that entrepreneurship is on the decline in all 50 states.

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