There is increasing interest in the potential of artificial intelligence and Big Data (e.g., generated via social media) to help understand economic outcomes. But can artificial intelligence models based on publicly available Big Data identify geographical differences in entrepreneurial personality or culture? We use a machine learning model based on 1.5 billion tweets by 5.25 million users to estimate the Big Five personality traits and an entrepreneurial personality profile for 1772 US counties. The Twitter-based personality estimates show substantial relationships to county-level entrepreneurship activity, accounting for 20% (entrepreneurial personality profile) and 32% (Big Five traits) of the variance in local entrepreneurship, even when controlling for other factors that affect entrepreneurship. Whereas more research is clearly needed, our findings have initial implications for research and practice concerned with entrepreneurial regions and eco-systems, and regional economic outcomes interacting with local culture. The results suggest, for example, that social media datasets and artificial intelligence methods have the potential to deliver comparable information on the personality and culture of regions than studies based on millions of questionnaire-based personality tests.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The threshold of 100 km is informed by previous research showing that commuting (as a proxy for an individual’s daily available interaction radius) becomes cumbersome if it exceeds 80–100 km (e.g., Helminen and Ristimäki 2007). We also tested alternative distance thresholds, leading to very similar distributional patterns.
The University of Pennsylvania IRB approved this study (protocol no. 813866).
We note that while we collect Twitter data over a period of time, we do so to maximize the sample rather than collect a panel indicator.
Arribas-Bel, D., Kourtit, K., & Nijkamp, P. (2016). The sociocultural sources of urban buzz. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 34(1), 188–204.
Åstebro, T., & Thompson, P. (2011). Entrepreneurs, jacks of all trades or hobos? Research Policy, 40(5), 637–649.
Audretsch, D. B. (2003). Entrepreneurship: A survey of the literature. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
Audretsch, D. B., & Keilbach, M. (2007). The localisation of entrepreneurship capital: Evidence from Germany. Papers in Regional Science, 86(3), 351–365.
Audretsch, D. B., Grilo, I., & Thurik, A. R. (Eds.). (2007). Handbook of research on entrepreneurship policy. Aldershot: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Audretsch, D. B., Obschonka, M., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2017). A new perspective on entrepreneurial regions: Linking cultural identity with latent and manifest entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 48(3), 681–697.
Back, M. D., Stopfer, J. M., Vazire, S., Gaddis, S., Schmukle, S. C., Egloff, B., & Gosling, S. D. (2010). Facebook profiles reflect actual personality, not self-idealization. Psychological Science, 21(3), 372–374.
Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1–26.
Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Funder, D. C. (2007). Psychology as the science of self-reports and finger movements: Or, whatever happened to actual behavior? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 96–403.
Beugelsdijk, S. (2010). Entrepreneurial culture, regional innovativeness and economic growth. In Entrepreneurship and culture (pp. 129–154). Berlin: Springer.
Bosma, N., & Sternberg, R. (2014). Entrepreneurship as an urban event? Empirical evidence from European cities. Regional Studies, 48(6), 1016–1033.
Brandstätter, H. (2011). Personality aspects of entrepreneurship: a look at five meta-analyses. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(3), 222–230.
Carbonara, E., Santarelli, E., Obschonka, M., Tran, H. T., Potter, J., & Gosling, S. D. (2018). Agency culture, constitutional provisions and entrepreneurship: a cross-country analysis. Industrial and Corporate Change forthcoming.
Carter, N. M., Gartner, W. B., Shaver, K. G., & Gatewood, E. J. (2003). The career reasons of nascent entrepreneurs. Journal of Business Venturing, 18(1), 13–39.
Colarelli, S. M., Dean, R. A., & Konstans, C. (1987). Comparative effects of personal and situational influences on job outcomes of new professionals. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72(4), 558.
Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (Neo-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI): Professional manual. Odessa: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Cuervo, A. (2005). Individual and environmental determinants of entrepreneurship. The International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 1(3), 293–311.
Curini, L., Iacus, S., & Canova, L. (2015). Measuring idiosyncratic happiness through the analysis of twitter: an application to the Italian case. Social Indicators Research, 121(2), 525–542.
Davidsson, P. (1995). Culture, structure and regional levels of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 7(1), 41–62.
Davidsson, P., & Wiklund, J. (1997). Values, beliefs and regional variations in new firm formation rates. Journal of Economic Psychology, 18(2–3), 179–199.
Digman, J. (1990). Personality structure: emergence of the five-factor model. Annual Review of Psychology, 41, 417–440.
Duranton, G., Rodríguez-Pose, A., & Sandall, R. (2009). Family types and the persistence of regional disparities in Europe. Economic Geography, 85(1), 23–47.
Ebert, T., Götz, F. M., Obschonka, M., Zmigrod, L., & Rentfrow, P. J. (2019). Regional variation in courage and entrepreneurship: The contrasting role of courage for the emergence and survival of start-ups in the United States. Journal of Personality, https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12454.
Eichstaedt, J. C., Schwartz, H. A., Kern, M. L., Park, G., Labarthe, D. R., Merchant, R. M., et al. (2015). Psychological language on Twitter predicts county-level heart disease mortality. Psychological Science, 26(2), 159–169. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614557867.
Einav, L., & Levin, J. (2014). Economics in the age of big data. Science, 346(6210), 1243089.
Elleman, L. G., Condon, D. M., Russin, S. E., & Revelle, W. (2018). The personality of US states: stability from 1999 to 2015. Journal of Research in Personality, 72, 64–72.
Ferguson, C. J. (2009). An effect size primer: a guide for clinicians and researchers. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(5), 532.
Fitjar, R. D., & Rodríguez-Pose, A. (2011). When local interaction does not suffice: sources of firm innovation in urban Norway. Environment and Planning A, 43(6), 1248–1267.
Fouad, N. A. (2007). Work and vocational psychology: theory, research, and applications. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 543.
Fritsch, M., & Wyrwich, M. (2014). The long persistence of regional levels of entrepreneurship: Germany, 1925–2005. Regional Studies, 48(6), 955–973.
Fritsch, M., Obschonka, M., Wyrwich, M., Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Potter, J. (2018). Regionale Unterschiede der Verteilung von Personen mit unternehmerischem Persönlichkeitsprofil in Deutschland–ein Überblick [Regional differences in entrepreneurial personality in Germany]. Raumforschung und Raumordnung| Spatial Research and Planning, 76(1), 65–81.
Fruyt, F., & Mervielde, I. (1999). RIASEC types and big five traits as predictors of employment status and nature of employment. Personnel Psychology, 52(3), 701–727.
Furr, R. M. (2009). Personality psychology as a truly behavioural science. European Journal of Personality, 23, 369–401.
Garretsen, H., Stokera, J. I., Soudisa, D., Martin, R., & Rentfrow, J. P. (2018). The relevance of personality traits for urban economic growth: Making space for psychological factors. Journal of Economic Geography. Forthcoming.
Getis, A., & Ord, J. K. (1992). The analysis of spatial association by use of distance statistics. Geographical Analysis, 24(3), 189–206.
Giorgi, S., Preotiuc-Pietro, D., Buffone, A., Rieman, D., Ungar, L. H., & Schwartz, H. A. (2018). The remarkable benefit of user-level aggregation for lexical-based population-level predictions. In Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing.
Glaeser, E. L., Kerr, S. P., & Kerr, W. R. (2015). Entrepreneurship and urban growth: an empirical assessment with historical mines. Review of Economics and Statistics, 97(2), 498–520.
Glaeser, E. L., Kominers, S. D., Luca, M., & Naik, N. (2018). Big data and big cities: the promises and limitations of improved measures of urban life. Economic Inquiry, 56(1), 114–137.
Goldberg, L. R., Johnson, J. A., Eber, H. W., Hogan, R., Ashton, M. C., Cloninger, C. R., & Gough, H. G. (2006). The international personality item pool and the future of public domain personality measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 84–96.
Greif, A., & Tabellini, G. (2010). Cultural and institutional bifurcation: China and Europe compared. American Economic Review, 100(2), 135–140.
Guiso, L., Sapienza, P., & Zingales, L. (2004). Does culture affect economic outcomes? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, 23–48.
Hayton, J. C., & Cacciotti, G. (2013). Is there an entrepreneurial culture? A review of empirical research. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 25(9–10), 708–731.
Hayton, J. C., George, G., & Zahra, S. A. (2002). National culture and entrepreneurship: a review of behavioral research. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 26(4), 33–52.
Helminen, V., & Ristimäki, M. (2007). Relationships between commuting distance, frequency and telework in Finland. Journal of Transport Geography, 15(5), 331–342.
Hisrich, R., Langan-Fox, J., & Grant, S. (2007). Entrepreneurship research and practice: a call to action for psychology. American Psychologist, 62(6), 575.
Hofstede, G., & McCrae, R. R. (2004). Personality and culture revisited: linking traits and dimensions of culture. Cross-Cultural Research, 38(1), 52–88.
Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices. A theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Odessa: PAR.
Huggins, R., & Thompson, P. (2017). The behavioural foundations of urban and regional development: Culture, psychology and agency. Journal of Economic Geography. forthcoming.
John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The big five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford.
Jokela, M. (2009). Personality predicts migration within and between US states. Journal of Research in Personality, 43(1), 79–83.
Jokela, M., Bleidorn, W., Lamb, M. E., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2015). Geographically varying associations between personality and life satisfaction in the London metropolitan area. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(3), 725–730.
Kern, M. L., Eichstaedt, J. C., Schwartz, H. A., Dziurzynski, L., Ungar, L. H., Stillwell, D. J., Kosinski, M., Ramones, S. M., & Seligman, M. E. (2014). The online social self: an open vocabulary approach to personality. Assessment, 21(2), 158–169.
Kloosterman, R. C. (2010). Matching opportunities with resources: a framework for analysing (migrant) entrepreneurship from a mixed embeddedness perspective. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 22(1), 25–45.
Kloosterman, R., & Rath, J. (2001). Immigrant entrepreneurs in advanced economies: mixed embeddedness further explored. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 27(2), 189–201.
Knight, F. H. (1921). Risk, uncertainty and profit. New York: Hart, Schaffner and Marx.
Kondo, K. (2016). Hot and cold spot analysis using Stata. The Stata Journal, 16(3), 613–631.
Kosinski, M., & Behrend, T. (2017). Editorial overview: big data in the behavioral sciences. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 18, iv–vi.
Kosinski, M., & Stillwell, D. J. (2011). myPersonality research wiki. myPersonality Project. Retrieved from http://mypersonality.org/wiki.
Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(15), 5802–5805.
Kosinski, M., Wang, Y., Lakkaraju, H., & Leskovec, J. (2016). Mining big data to extract patterns and predict real-life outcomes. Psychological Methods, 21(4), 493–506.
Lazear, E. P. (2005). Entrepreneurship. Journal of Labor Economics, 23(4), 649–680.
Lee, N. (2017). Psychology and the geography of innovation. Economic Geography, 93(2), 106–130.
Lee, S. Y., Florida, R., & Acs, Z. (2004). Creativity and entrepreneurship: a regional analysis of new firm formation. Regional Studies, 38(8), 879–891.
Lofstrom, M. (2013). Does self-employment increase the economic well-being of low-skilled workers? Small Business Economics, 40(4), 933–952.
McAdams, D. P., & Pals, J. L. (2006). A new big five: Fundamental principles for an integrative science of personality. American Psychologist, 61(3), 204–217.
McClelland, D. C. (1961). The achieving society. Princeton: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
McCrae, R. R. (2001). Trait psychology and culture: exploring intercultural comparisons. Journal of Personality, 69(6), 819–846.
McCrae, R. R. (2004). Human nature and culture: a trait perspective. Journal of Research in Personality, 38(1), 3–14.
Morstatter, F., Pfeffer, J., Liu, H., & Carley, K. M. (2013). Is the sample good enough? Comparing data from Twitter’s Streaming API with Twitter’s Firehose. In ICWSM.
Nathan, M., & Lee, N. (2013). Cultural diversity, innovation, and entrepreneurship: firm-level evidence from London. Economic Geography, 89(4), 367–394.
Nightingale, P., & Coad, Alexander J.L. (2014). Political and methodological biases in entrepreneurship research. Industrial and Corporate Change, 23(1), 113–143. https://doi.org/10.1093/icc/dtt057.
Nunn, N., & Wantchekon, L. (2011). The slave trade and the origins of mistrust in Africa. American Economic Review, 101(7), 3221–3252.
Obschonka, M. (2017). The quest for the entrepreneurial culture: psychological big data in entrepreneurship research. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 18, 69–74.
Obschonka, M., & Stuetzer, M. (2017). Integrating psychological approaches to entrepreneurship: the entrepreneurial personality system (EPS). Small Business Economics, 49, 203–231.
Obschonka, M., Schmitt-Rodermund, E., Silbereisen, R. K., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2013). The regional distribution and correlates of an entrepreneurship-prone personality profile in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom: a socioecological perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(1), 104–122.
Obschonka, M., Stuetzer, M., Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., Lamb, M. E., Potter, J., & Audretsch, D. B. (2015). Entrepreneurial regions: do macro-psychological cultural characteristics of regions help solve the “knowledge paradox” of economics? PLoS One, 10(6), e0129332.
Obschonka, M., Stuetzer, M., Audretsch, D. B., Rentfrow, P. J., Potter, J., & Gosling, S. D. (2016). Macropsychological factors predict regional economic resilience during a major economic crisis. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(2), 95–104.
Obschonka, M., Stuetzer, M., Rentfrow, P. J., Shaw-Taylor, L., Satchell, M., Silbereisen, R. K., Potter, J., & Gosling, S. D. (2017). In the shadow of coal: how large-scale industries contributed to present-day regional differences in personality and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000175.
Ord, J. K., & Getis, A. (1995). Local spatial autocorrelation statistics: distributional issues and an application. Geographical Analysis, 27, 286–306.
Park, G., Schwartz, H. A., Eichstaedt, J. C., Kern, M. L., Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D. J., et al. (2015). Automatic personality assessment through social media language. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(6), 934–952.
Rentfrow, P. J., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2008). A theory of the emergence, persistence, and expression of geographic variation in psychological characteristics. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(5), 339–369.
Rentfrow, P. J., Gosling, S. D., Jokela, M., Stillwell, D. J., Kosinski, M., & Potter, J. (2013). Divided we stand: three psychological regions of the United States and their political, economic, social, and health correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(6), 996–1012.
Rentfrow, P. J., Jokela, M., & Lamb, M. E. (2015). Regional personality differences in Great Britain. PLoS One, 10(3), e0122245.
Rieman, D., Jaidka, K., Schwartz, H. A., & Ungar, L. (2017). Domain adaptation from user-level Facebook models to county-level Twitter predictions. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing, vol. 1, pp. 764–773.
Roberts, B. W., Kuncel, N. R., Shiner, R., Caspi, A., & Goldberg, L. R. (2007). The power of personality: the comparative validity of personality traits, socioeconomic status, and cognitive ability for predicting important life outcomes. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(4), 313–345.
Rodríguez-Pose, A., & Hardy, D. (2015). Cultural diversity and entrepreneurship in England and Wales. Environment and Planning A, 47(2), 392–411.
Savickas, M. L., & Porfeli, E. J. (2012). Career adaptabilities scale: construction, reliability, and measurement equivalence across 13 countries. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(3), 661–673.
Saxenian, A. (1994). Regional advantage. Culture and competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Schmitt-Rodermund, E. (2004). Pathways to successful entrepreneurship: parenting, personality, entrepreneurial competence, and interests. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65, 498–518.
Schmitt-Rodermund, E. (2007). The long way to entrepreneurship: Personality, parenting, early interests, and competencies as precursors for entrepreneurial activity among the ‘termites’. In R. K. Silbereisen & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Approaches to positive youth development (pp. 205–224). London: Sage.
Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The theory of economic development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Schwartz, H. A., Eichstaedt, J. C., Kern, M. L., Dziurzynski, L., Agrawal, M., Park, G., ... Lucas, R. E. (2013a). Characterizing geographic variation in well-being using tweets. In Seventh International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, Boston.
Schwartz, H. A., Eichstaedt, J. C., Kern, M. L., Dziurzynski, L., Ramones, S. M., Agrawal, M., et al. (2013b). Personality, gender, and age in the language of social media: the open-vocabulary approach. PLoS One, 8(9), e73791.
Schwartz, H. A., Giorgi, S., Sap, M., Crutchley, P., Ungar, L., & Eichstaedt, J. (2017). DLATK: Differential language analysis ToolKit. In Proceedings of the 2017 conference on empirical methods in natural language processing: System demonstrations (pp. 55–60).
Schwartz, H.A., Giorgi, S., Sap, M., Eichstaedt, J. C., Kern, M. L., & Ungar, L. H. (in preparation). Assessment of regional personality through Twitter.
Shane, S., Nicolaou, N., Cherkas, L., & Spector, T. D. (2010). Genetics, the big five, and the tendency to be self-employed. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(6), 1154–1162.
Specht, J., Egloff, B., & Schmukle, S. C. (2011). Stability and change of personality across the life course: the impact of age and major life events on mean-level and rank-order stability of the big five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(4), 862.
Spigel, B. (2017). The relational organization of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41(1), 49–72.
Stam, E. (2017). Measuring the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Utrecht School of Economics, discussion paper series: 17–11.
Sternberg, R. (2009). Regional dimensions of entrepreneurship. Foundations and Trends in Entrepreneurship, 5(4), 211–340.
Stuetzer, M., Obschonka, M., Audretsch, D. B., Wyrwich, M., Rentfrow, P. J., Coombes, M., et al. (2016). Industry structure, entrepreneurship, and culture: an empirical analysis using historical coalfields. European Economic Review, 86, 52–72.
Stuetzer, M., Audretsch, D. B., Obschonka, M., Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Potter, J. (2018). Entrepreneurship culture, knowledge spillovers and the growth of regions. Regional Studies, 52(5), 608–618.
Sullivan, S. E. (1999). The changing nature of careers: a review and research agenda. Journal of Management, 25(3), 457–484.
Sylwester, K., & Purver, M. (2015). Twitter language use reflects psychological differences between democrats and republicans. PLoS One, 10(9), e0137422.
Talhelm, T., Zhang, X., Oishi, S., Shimin, C., Duan, D., Lan, X., & Kitayama, S. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science, 344(6184), 603–608.
Tata, A., Martínez, D. L., García, D., Oesch, A., & Brusoni, S. (2017). The psycholinguistics of entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 7, 38–44.
Valkanas, G., Katakis, I., Gunopulos, D., & Stefanidis, A. (2014). Mining twitter data with resource constraints. In Proceedings of the 2014 IEEE/WIC/ACM international joint conferences on web intelligence (WI) and intelligent agent technologies (IAT)-Volume 01 (pp. 157–164). IEEE Computer Society.
Wilson, R. E., Gosling, S. D., & Graham, L. T. (2012). A review of Facebook research in the social sciences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(3), 203–220.
Youyou, W., Kosinski, M., & Stillwell, D. (2015). Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(4), 1036–1040.
Zhang, Z., & Arvey, R. D. (2009). Rule breaking in adolescence and entrepreneurial status: an empirical investigation. Journal of Business Venturing, 24(5), 436–447.
Zhao, H., Seibert, S. E., & Lumpkin, G. T. (2010). The relationship of personality to entrepreneurial intentions and performance: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Management, 36(2), 381–404.
Zomaya, A. Y., & Sakr, S. (2017). Handbook of big data technologies. Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Obschonka, M., Lee, N., Rodríguez-Pose, A. et al. Big data methods, social media, and the psychology of entrepreneurial regions: capturing cross-county personality traits and their impact on entrepreneurship in the USA. Small Bus Econ 55, 567–588 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-019-00204-2
- Big data
- Artificial intelligence
- Social media
- Psychological traits
- Big five