The paper’s authors, Deepak Hegde, an associate professor of management and organizations at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, and Justin Tumlinson, a senior lecturer at Loughborough University London, found that when “potential employers perceive [an employee’s] productive capacity as lower than he does” it gives the person a reason to start their own venture.

The study draws on two longitudinal data sets spanning close to 20,000 people in the US and in the UK. The UK National Child Development Study (NCDS) follows the lives of every UK resident born during one particular week in 1958 to the present; the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) provides detailed educational records and work histories of US residents surveyed from 1979 until 2010. Amongst Hegde and Tumlinson’s conclusions from the data: “Entrepreneurs have higher ability scores, lower levels of educational attainment, as well as greater and more variable earnings,” which may explain why “several groups with less credible ability signals, such as immigrants, gravitate toward entrepreneurship.”

The most provocative part of the paper has to do with lemons and cherries. It builds upon the paper The Market for Lemons, which was written in 1970 by economist George Akerlof and examines how asymmetric information can degrade the quality of goods and services traded in a market—leaving the so-called lemons behind. In this case, the lemons (i.e. the less talented workers at corporations) get separated from the cherries (i.e. the entrepreneurs who seek “to be a residual claimant on their talents”).

The authors acknowledge that their finding “contrasts with a large literature in social science, which casts entrepreneurs as ‘lemons’—those who either cannot find, cannot hold, or cannot stand real jobs.”

Whether you’re a cherry, a lemon, or the next Zuckerberg, this paper has potential implications for how you might value yourself and your job opportunities in the future, as we rethink standards for educational credentialing, hiring methods, and policies to encourage economic mobility.

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