Business development · 3 August 2016

Younger siblings are more likely to be entrepreneurs

James Dyson
James Dyson – British entrepreneur and inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner – is youngest of three siblings

There has long been a fascination with how our positions amongst siblings affects our character traits, but new research has revealed the extent to which it impacts our likelihood to become entrepreneurs too.

Researchers from the universities of Birmingham and Reading have discovered that younger siblings in families are far more likely to take a risk and start their own enterprise than their older brothers or sisters.

The study documented the career progression of 17,000 people born in 1970. It found that the youngest-born children from families with no prior business experience were 50 per cent more likely to be self-employed.

For those younger siblings with an entrepreneurial figure in the family, such as a parent, the figure rises to 65 per cent.

“Our research suggests that last-borns are more likely to be risk takers,” said professor Francis Greene from the University of Birmingham.

“Researchers have known for a long time that entrepreneurship runs in families. What was less clear was which child was more likely to follow their parents into entrepreneurship.

“The most surprising finding was that if your parents had no entrepreneurial experience and you were a last-born, you were more likely to be self-employed than your older siblings.”

In a non-entrepreneurial family of two children, the younger child was found to be 49 per cent more likely to become their own boss by the age of 38. In families with three children, this figure fell to 43 per cent.

When looking at families with parents who were already entrepreneurial, the study showed the likelihood of first or middle-born children going into self employment increased dramatically, by 151 per cent and 118 per cent respectively.

Laing Han from the University of Reading added: “Family business owners need to think hard about how they use birth order to make decisions about family succession.

“First and middle-borns may be more comfortable taking on a family business because it is more familiar, but it might be the last-born child has traits that are better suited to being in business.”

Overall, the study concluded that younger siblings were more “exploratory, unconventional and tolerant of risk”.

What are the inherent risks in both owning and running a business? Read our expert’s opinion

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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