The drive among students to become entrepreneurs when they grow up decreases as they get older, new research shows.

A Gallup-Hope study revealed that students' desire to start their own business is lower among high schoolers than middle schoolers, and decreases with each grade level. Specifically, 51 percent of kids in grades 5-8 say they plan to start their own business, compared with just 33 percent of those in grades in 9-12.

The research discovered that the entrepreneurial spirit is most alive in minority students. About half of all racial and ethnic minority students want to start their own business, with just 37 percent of white students having the same aspirations. Overall, 42 percent of students expressed plans to start a business, down from 45 percent in 2011.

Contributing to the decline is a lack of real-world opportunities to join the work force. The study shows that just 17 percent of all the middle and high school students work at least one hour weekly.

"With little exposure to the workforce, few youth have any experience at all in the workforce or that would help them build a business later in their lives," researchers wrote.

Students do have opportunities at school to gain some preparation for the business world: 55 percent of students said their school taught them about money and banking, while 47 percent said their school offered classes on how to start or run a business.

The researchers said it's crucial to identify the 1.5 million students with the potential to build small to medium-size businesses early and cultivate their entrepreneurial energy, if Americans expect to maintain the global advantage in entrepreneurship.

"Creating opportunities for young minority entrepreneurs may provide a much-needed foundation for helping such businesses flourish," the Gallup-Hope researchers wrote.

Since small businesses have such a large impact on their communities, the study's authors said if U.S. communities are to be thriving places to live and learn well into the future, America needs a strategy that includes investment in its youngest and most hopeful members — its youth.

Educators, community and business leaders and policymakers should all be working together to encourage students' entrepreneurial aspirations, the study's said.

"Through advisory boards and individual programs, leaders can develop local efforts that help students connect with mentors in their community, with learning opportunities such as workshops or internships, and with jobs that help them unite their entrepreneurial intentions with the experiences they need to bring their innovative ideas to life," the researchers wrote.

The study was based on surveys of 1,009 U.S. students in grades 5-12.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.