June 5, 2006

Do Genes Influence Who Will Be Entrepreneurs?

LONDON -- Forget family influence and upbringing. When it comes to being an entrepreneur, genes seem to play an important role, scientists said on Monday.

A study of identical twins by researchers in Britain and the United States suggests family environment has little influence because nearly half of a person's propensity to be self-employed, or entrepreneurial, is due to genes.

"This relatively high heritability suggests the importance of considering genetic factors to explain why some people are entrepreneurial, while others are not," said Professor Tim Spector of St Thomas' Hospital in London.

By comparing self-employment in 609 pairs of identical twins, who share all the same genes, and 657 pairs of non-identical twins Spector and scientists at Imperial College, London and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland analyzed the impact of genetics and environment on entrepreneurs.

The rate of entrepreneurs among twins is the same as in the general population. Spector and his team found that identical twins increased the odds of their twins following the same path more than non-identical twins, which suggests genes are important.

"Evidence has shown that genetic factors influence a variety of business-related areas from job satisfaction to vocational interests and work values," he said.

The researchers, who presented their findings at a meeting at the London Business School, believe genes could have an impact on personality traits and abilities that can influence factors involved in people becoming entrepreneurs.

Spector is director of the Twin Research Unit at St Thomas' Hospital which has a registry of 10,000 twins who are studied for a variety of illnesses, personality traits and abilities.