Delinquent teenagers turn out to be some of the most successful entrepreneurs, when their risky tendencies are accompanied by traits such as high learning aptitude and a strong family background--at least, according to new research

The paper, published by Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with the London School of Economics, specified that youths who engage in more aggressive, risky, and illegal activities turn out to be more lucrative entrepreneurs, both in terms of success and finances.

Researchers culled the data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979, which surveyed 12,868 individuals aged 15 to 22 in 1979, and the Current Population Survey, a joint effort from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Researchers used these tools to examine participants' cognitive ability, self-esteem, self-determination of control over their lives, the degree of their participation in illicit activities, and earnings regressions.

“Since entrepreneurship involves innovation, it also involves doing something different and not doing exactly what you’re told to do,” said Ross Levine, a co-author of the paper. 

“Certain behavioral characteristics—getting in trouble, doing drugs, taking things by force—these types of behaviors, which are not looked upon favorably when someone is a teenager or later in life, also seem to signal that this is an individual who may be more likely to not follow simple norms, think outside of the box, and be aggressive in a competitive marketplace,” Levine explained.

Specifically, the paper noted it’s 40 percent more likely that these individuals were once stopped by the police and they were two times as likely to admit to taking something by force when younger.

Of course, Levine said, merely engaging in aggressive, illicit behavior as a teen doesn’t solidify future success as an entrepreneur. He explained that it’s a portfolio of characteristics, such as innate intelligence, a secure family background, and a sound education, that combine with a risky youth to produce entrepreneurial success.