You have every reason to feel good about owning a company. New research indicates that entrepreneurs are better paid and more satisfied with their work and their lives than either corporate denizens or the self-employed.

The findings come from the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit based in New York City that has tracked changes in the work force since 1977. Small-business owners were included in the pool of 3,500 subjects for the first time this year. Terry Bond, the report's lead author, was surprised by how lucrative entrepreneurship is (see charts). "By starting your own business you're creating a real possibility for increasing personal wealth," Bond says.

Despite the long hours, business owners boast of "a huge amount of personal satisfaction," observes Murray Low, who heads Columbia University's entrepreneurship center. They enjoy controlling their schedules, and having work that enables them to develop new skills and to be creative.

The study also found that the pay gap between men and women in the general work force has narrowed in terms of hourly wages. But because more women are part-timers and they travel less for work, their annual income still lags that of men--even though 38% of women are managers or professionals, compared with 28% of men.

Hours worked: Many small-business owners work 50 hours a week or more

Number of hours worked

  • 19% Less than 35 hours
  • 38% 35 to 50 hours
  • 43% More than 50 hours

In the money: Small-business owners far outearned other groups

Annual Income

  • Employees $45,200
  • Independents $58,400
  • Small-Business Owners $112,800