University of Oulu

Vaaramo, M., Ala-Mursula, L., Miettunen, J. et al. Economic preferences and temperament traits among business leaders and paid employees. Small Bus Econ 60, 1197–1217 (2023).

Economic preferences and temperament traits among business leaders and paid employees

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Author: Vaaramo, Mikko1; Ala-Mursula, Leena2; Miettunen, Jouko2,3;
Organizations: 1Department of Economics, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 4600, N90014, Oulu, Finland
2Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, N90014, Oulu, Finland
3Medical Research Center Oulu, Oulu University Hospital, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-10-24


This paper explores individuals’ economic preferences and temperament traits among different categories of business leaders (i.e., managers, self-employed with employees, self-employed without employees) and paid employees. We assume that these quite stable preferences and traits play a role in predicting occupational choice toward leadership roles. We use a large individual-level survey dataset (n = 5890) from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 at age 46 with linkages to nationally registered data. We construct survey measures for three types of economic preferences: risk, time, and social preferences. We use Cloninger’s inventory to measure four main temperament traits: harm avoidance, reward dependence, novelty-seeking, and persistence. We show that business leaders, in general, have different economic preferences and temperament traits than paid employees. To become a manager, especially the temperament trait of novelty-seeking seems relevant; and to become self-employed, particularly the economic preference of risk-taking appears as important.

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Series: Small business economics
ISSN: 0921-898X
ISSN-E: 1573-0913
ISSN-L: 0921-898X
Volume: 60
Issue: 3
Pages: 1197 - 1217
DOI: 10.1007/s11187-022-00653-2
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 512 Business and management
Funding: Mikko Vaaramo thanks the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, Liikesivistysrahasto and Oulu University Graduate School (UniOGS) for their generous support. Open Access funding provided by University of Oulu including Oulu University Hospital. NFBC 1966 received financial support from University of Oulu Grant no. 24000692 and Oulu University Hospital Grant no. 24301140.
Dataset Reference: We thank the participants in the 46-year study and the NFBC project center. NFBC data is available from the University of Oulu, Infrastructure for Population Studies. Permission to use the data can be applied for research purposes via electronic material request portal. In the use of data, we follow the EU general data protection regula tion (679/2016) and Finnish Data Protection Act. The use of personal data is based on cohort participant’s written informed consent at his/her latest follow-up study, which may cause limitations to its use. Please, contact NFBC project center (NFB- and visit the cohort website (www. for more information.
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