A study of twins in the U.K. suggests that the answer to the long-debated question of whether entrepreneurs are born or made is that each is half-true. The research concluded that 48% of a person’s propensity to become self-employed is genetic.
Scientists measuring the degree to which genetics influences behaviour often compare identical twins, who are 100% identical genetically, with same-sex fraternal twins. On average, the latter share only 50% of the segregating genes that determine inheritable traits differing from one person to the next, such as eye colour.
People who are twins are just as likely to be entrepreneurs as the general population. The researchers then examined the likelihood that if one twin is an entrepreneur the other one will be one too. They found this correlation was far higher among identical twins than fraternal twins. The researchers—from Imperial College and St. Thomas’ Hospital in London and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland—concluded that genes accounted for 48% of this difference. Nurture, such as family environment and upbringing, accounted for the rest.
The study’s authors suggested several ways in which genetic factors might influence people’s tendency to become entrepreneurs. For example, genetics might predispose a person to develop traits such as being sociable and extroverted, which in turn facilitate skills such as salesmanship that can be vital to entrepreneurial success. As well, other research has shown that genes affect the level of education someone receives, and that more highly educated people are more likely to become entrepreneurs because they’re better at recognizing new business opportunities.