Are ‘born to rebel’ last-borns more likely to be self-employed?

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This paper investigates birth order effects on adult self-employment. Drawing on Sulloway's ‘born to rebel’ thesis, we test whether or not last-borns whose parents have no prior self-employment experience are more likely to bear and assume the risks associated with self-employment. We also test if parental self-employment experience moderates the relationship between last-borns and self-employment. Using large-scale life-span data on 6322 cohort members, a within-family design, and controlling for demographic confounds such as the number of siblings, we find that last-borns from non-entrepreneurial families are more likely to be self-employed than first or middle-borns. However, in families with parental experience of self-employment, we find that last-borns in three or more child families are no more likely to be self-employed than their siblings.


Original languageEnglish
Article number101
Pages (from-to)270-275
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue numberOctober
Early online date12 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Birth order , Last-borns , Risk , Self-employment