Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Earnings in Later-Life Self-Employment

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It has been suggested that individuals with ADHD are likely to go into self-employment, where a flair for entrepreneurship may improve their prospects. But this study suggests the choice of self-employment may not always be a positive one for those with this condition.

This paper asks two questions: Are those with a genetic predisposition to ADHD more likely to be self-employed, and is the choice of self-employment associated with lower earnings for these people?

Using a sample of almost 8,000 people aged 50-65 who took part in the US Health and Retirement Study, the paper finds that those with a propensity to ADHD are indeed more likely than others to be self-employed. But this does not seem to have a greater effect on their earnings potential than it would on others – both those who are likely to have ADHD and those who earn less when self-employed than when employed.

The paper suggests that rather than being due to a flair for entrepreneurship, the higher number of ADHD individuals in self-employment may be linked to difficulties in finding and keeping a job. Further research is needed to examine how this group could use their genetic endowment positively in certain industries – for example, through self-employment in dynamic settings or through entrepreneurial jobs within organisations.