The contribution of behavior genetics to entrepreneurship: An evolutionary perspective

Abstract

In line with well-replicated findings in psychology, genetic factors have been found to correlate with several measures of entrepreneurial activity, prompting a new conversation in the field. We contribute to this dialogue in several ways. First, we assess the contribution of this emergent literature in the light of well-established findings from behavior genetics. Second, we sharpen the debate by showing why an evolutionary perspective based on game theoretic models of gene-culture evolution, such as the Dual-Inheritance Theory, can help explain the mechanism behind the heritability of behaviors involving knowledge, beliefs, and interactions with other individuals. Third, we apply this framework to explain why entrepreneurial activity, even if heritable, will be highly contingent on environmental forces. Finally, we discuss the implications of our model and sketch a research agenda for studies on entrepreneurship.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For an in-depth account, the reader is referred to Plomin et al. (2013), Turkheimer (2000), and Turkheimer and Waldron (2000).

  2. 2.

    Twin studies only measure phenotypic variation; genetic and environmental factors are unobserved (latent) variables.

  3. 3.

    Simplistic accounts of genetic influence suppose that a gene produces a given effect. In fact, most behavioral traits are polygenic (influenced by many genes), and genes are pleiotropic (each one has several effects); therefore, in most cases, genes have multiple effects, and phenotypes have multiple causes. Furthermore, although twin studies focus on additive genetic effects, there are also non-additive genetic influences. In the first case, the alleles at a loci affect the trait independent of each other, and, in the second case, they interact with each other either at the same locus (dominance) or on different loci (epistasis) (Rijsdijk and Sham 2002).

  4. 4.

    Nofal et al. (2017) also include gene-gene interactions, also called hormone x hormone interactions. It is worth mentioning that their framework does not include the effect of cultural transmission and the influence of entrepreneurship on the environment. Neither do they consider the effect of entrepreneurship on personality.

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Kuechle, G. The contribution of behavior genetics to entrepreneurship: An evolutionary perspective. J Evol Econ 29, 1263–1284 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00191-019-00634-x

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Keywords

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Behavior genetics
  • Dual-inheritance theory

JEL Classification

  • L26
  • B41
  • C19