Can Entrepreneurship be Inherited? An Expert's Perspective

The tendency to identify new business opportunities is something that can be inherited. Studies have shown that income from self-employment is heritable, meaning that genetics can affect not only the inclination to participate in entrepreneurship, but also the ability to do so. Certain genetic variants have been linked to entrepreneurship, making those who possess them more likely to take risks and be self-employed. These genes are associated with the receptors for neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. However, it is important to note that the environment also plays a significant role in professional and life choices.

Despite numerous attempts in the last decade, no strong association has been discovered between genetic variants and entrepreneurship. Our analysis of these papers gives a clear answer to our first research question: “Why has the identification of strong associations between genetic variants and entrepreneurship not been successful in the last decade?” Regardless of whether a hypothesis-based or hypothesis-free approach was used, until now genetic discovery studies on entrepreneurship have not been powerful enough. However, based on the results of large-scale genetic discovery studies on other behavioral traits (such as educational attainment), we can expect strong associations between genetic variants and entrepreneurship to be identified if a sufficiently large sample can be gathered. Datasets containing both genetic data and entrepreneurship information are relatively scarce (Van der Loos et al.). Therefore, a sufficiently powerful genome-wide association study (GWAS) in terms of entrepreneurship will soon be feasible. For example, one study took 99 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) selected from their main GWAS on risk tolerance and further analyzed their association with entrepreneurship.

This need for a higher level of enthusiasm can lead people to participate in entrepreneurship as a sensation-seeking activity, similar to other risky behaviors. For example, previous research shows that body height is associated with entrepreneurship (Rietveld et al.).Understanding entrepreneurship depends on explanations of how genetics and the environment interact. First, the results of the analyses show how polygenic risk scores constructed for a variety of traits (not just entrepreneurship) can help identify regions of the human genome that are particularly important for business behavior. Studies analyzing the heritability of entrepreneurship indicate that explanations for why people participate in gene-ignoring ventures are incomplete. Therefore, such an SNP is unlikely to provide much information about the mechanisms underlying business behavior.

Due to data constraints, the last and largest GWAS on entrepreneurship used self-employment as an indicator of entrepreneurship (Van der Loos et al.). The public policy implications for how to encourage entrepreneurship and even if redistributing more through taxation would be enormous. He is a member of the Chair of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which is part of Labex Entrepreneurship (University of Montpellier, France) and is funded by the French government (Labex Entreprendre, ANR-10-Labex-11-0).

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