Does your child love to participate in the visual arts or tinker with metal or electronics? If so, you may be raising a future inventor or entrepreneur according to a new study.

Researchers at Michigan State University looked at the university’s Honors College graduates from 1990 to 1995 and paid particular attention to students who majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. They discovered that those who owned businesses or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts during childhood than the general public.

"The most interesting finding was the importance of sustained participation in those activities," Rex LaMore, director of MSU's Center for Community and Economic Development, said in a university news release. "If you started as a young child and continued in your adult years, you're more likely to be an inventor as measured by the number of patents generated, businesses formed or articles published. And that was something we were surprised to discover."

Musical training appeared to play a major role in the honor graduates’ lives. Researchers found that 93 percent of the alumni reported musical training at some point in their lives compared to 34 percent in the general population. Students also had a higher-than-average involvement in other arts such as acting, dance and creative writing.

A look into current patent owners revealed that 42 percent of the students were more likely to have been exposed to metal work and electronics during childhood and 30 percent to photography. Those exposed to architecture during childhood were 87.5 percent more likely to form a company.

What’s the connection between being involved in the visual arts as children and adults who are entrepreneurs and patent owners?  Researchers believe that participation as a child and young adult in arts and crafts stimulates creative thinking and multifaceted problem solving; two very important skills needed for success. They said they hope their findings will boost support for the continuation of arts programs in schools and noted that these platforms might even contribute to a healthier economy.

"Inventors are more likely to create high-growth, high-paying jobs in our state, and that's the kind of target we think we should be looking for," LaMore said. "So we better think about how we support artistic capacity, as well as science and math activity, so that we have these outcomes."

The study was recently published in the Economic Development Quarterly.

Resource: Robert Preidt,