Exactly how entrepreneurial is Gen Y? That's a contested issue in the blogosphere with some saying today’s young people are a born generation of business owners and others arguing they’re simply victims of the terrible economy forced into finding alternate routes to employment. But there is one group at least where the controversy seems to be pretty well settled--Gen Y Facebook users. They’re embracing the role of business owner wholeheartedly, according to a new study.

The analysis, done by Millennial Branding and analytics company Identified.com, was created by a team of data scientists crunching raw information from 4 million Facebook profiles of young people to uncover how they are representing themselves on Facebook--and whether they’re using the social network for business purposes. Among other findings (on average we’ve friended 16 coworkers) is one startling statistic.

Among those aged 18 to 29, "owner" is the fifth most popular job title listed on profiles behind "server," "manager," "intern" and "sales associate." The title of "owner" beats out in popularity classic gigs like teacher, assistant, and sales rep--and its prevalence on Facebook shows exactly how strongly this generation self-identifies as entrepreneurial.

This isn’t just their career path of last resort either, according to Millennial Branding manager partner Dan Schawbel. In an e-mail outlining the results of the firm’s research and analysis, he offered several reasons that Millennials prefer start-up life:

  • With a start-up, they can have an impact on Day One, whereas in a large company, they would have to go through months of training only to be stuck in a single role. In a start-up, they play multiple roles at once.
  • Gen Y-ers saw their parents work for large companies for decades and don’t want to same fate. They don’t trust large companies either.
  • Gen Y is interested in flexible work programs, which most start-ups offer. They can work from home or work next to other ambitious Gen Y-ers.
  • A lot of start-ups are focused on social good now, which attracts Gen Y.
  • Gen Y-ers are having difficulty finding jobs in this economy. They don’t feel like it’s risky to start a business, or work for a start-up, because they have nothing to lose at this point. Also, the top job title is "server," which leads us to believe that many Gen Y-ers are starting their businesses while they take service jobs to pay for them.

Of course, the number of owners on Facebook versus, say, teachers, may be inflated due to self-selection bias. Less than half of Gen Y lists their employer on Facebook, and unless they’re job hunting, there is little reason for a teacher to advertise their profession on their personal profile. Meanwhile, business owners are endlessly hungry for publicity and potential customers so have every incentive to get the word about their business. Nonetheless, the startling high incidence of owners among Gen Y on Facebook seems like a strong data point in support of this generation’s deep identification with start-up dreams.

Check out this cool infographic of the results for more complete info.