Molecular Genetics and Hormones: New Frontiers in Entrepreneurship Research Defended on Thursday, 20 June 2013

Recent studies suggest that entrepreneurship is partly heritable, but are unable to pinpoint the specific genes involved. This thesis presents results from novel research aiming to identify genes associated with entrepreneurship using genetic data on the molecular level. In addition, the relationship between testosterone and entrepreneurship is examined since genes may exert their influence through this hormone.

The thesis starts by reviewing candidate gene studies that test a pre-specified set of genes for association, but which often fail to replicate. An example within the setting of entrepreneurship research is provided to illustrate this last point. Next, the genome-wide association study (GWAS) design is presented that scans the entire genome for associations. However, due to multiple testing, GWAS requires very large sample sizes to establish robust associations and we perform a simulation study to estimate the minimum sample size needed for a GWAS on entrepreneurship. The following part reports evidence that entrepreneurship is partly heritable and around half of the heritability is accounted for by actual molecular genetic data. However, a GWAS on entrepreneurship does not identify robustly associated genes and prediction exercises show that it is currently impossible to predict entrepreneurship solely from molecular genetic data. In the final part, we show that, in contrast to earlier findings, testosterone is not associated with entrepreneurship.

Taken as a whole, the results suggest that entrepreneurship is likely to be influenced by hundreds if not thousands of genes with a very small effect size each, implying that very large sample sizes will be needed in future research to discover associated genes. Most importantly, this thesis may serve as a practical guide for studying the molecular genetics of other economic variables. In conclusion, this thesis helps to build the foundations for a novel research field that integrates molecular genetics into economics.


candidate gene study; entrepreneurship; testosterone; gcta; genetics; genome-wide association study; heritability; microeconomics; molecular genetic architecture; prediction; self-employment; twin study

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