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Western States Have Citizens With The Most Entrepreneurial Personalities

It all comes back to those entrepreneurial early settlers who trekked over from the East.

What personal characteristics do you associate with entrepreneurs? Is there a specific entrepreneurial personality type?

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Five traits stand out, according to researchers: high levels of extraversion, conscientiousness and openness to experience; and low levels of agreeableness and neuroticism. Entrepreneurs, for example, are outgoing enough to inspire investors and gain customers, conscientious enough to keep on top of finances, and open to new ideas. But they’re disagreeable dealing with, say, demands from suppliers. And they’re not flustered by setbacks.


The maps here plot the entrepreneurial personality type across the country, using psychological survey data from more than 600,000 people. The top 10 (in dark blue in the color map) are mostly in the western half of the country, particularly the Southwest.

“It may be that the high values in the American West reflect historical migration patterns within the United States,” explains the paper, which comes from researchers in Germany, Texas and Massachusetts. “Perhaps it was the more ‘entrepreneurial’ early settlers who took the challenge and ventured from the East into the West.”


The less entrepreneurial states, according to the study, are in the Rust Belt (Michigan and Ohio) and Deep South (Mississippi is last). Detroit “may have attracted (and selected) non-entrepreneurial workers for rule-driven mass production and socialized their residents trough this type of work and related values and norms in the region,” the paper says.

The researchers also found that states with high numbers of entrepreneur types also had the most entrepreneurial activity (measured by things like business starts and the number of self-employed). Look at second black and white map (measuring activity on the Kauffman index). It looks similar to the first one, which shows density of the personality type.


The study was “the first to present and test a narrowly defined psychological measure of a regional entrepreneurial culture,” says lead author Martin Obschonka, from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany. “Such local cultural features have a long history and are relatively hardwired in the region. They affect economic outcomes of the region. In other words, culture and economic outcomes are closely intertwined.”

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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