Purpose – It is known that the self-employed are generally more satisfied than salaried workers. The aim of this paper is to test whether this phenomenon is particularly found for the first-generation self-employed. Design/methodology/approach – French and British panel data are analysed, which include information on various measures of job satisfaction, and the respondent's parents' occupation. Job satisfaction regressions were run in which the first- and second-generation self-employed were distinguished between. Findings – The study finds that first-generation self-employed (those whose parents were not self-employed) are more satisfied overall than are the second-generation self-employed. The findings are consistent between the British and French data. Research limitations/implications – While the results are the same in the two countries considered, further validation work should extend the analysis across countries. While the authors are fairly sure that the second-generation self-employed do worse, they cannot precisely distinguish between comparison to one's parents, constrained occupational choice, and selection effects due to lower barriers to self-employment entry. Originality/value – The authors believe that this is one of the first papers to distinguish between types of self-employed in terms of their higher satisfaction. The finding that parents' labour force status continues to have a significant impact on their children's job satisfaction argues for a more systematic consideration of intergenerational factors in the analysis of labour markets.