Research and teaching
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Olav Sorenson and Michael S. Dahl

We examine the extent to which the gender wage gap stems from dual-earner couples jointly choosing where to live. If couples locate in places better suited for the man’s employment than for the woman’s, the resulting mismatch of women to employers will de- press women’s wages. Examining data from Denmark, our analyses indicate (i) that Danish couples chose locations with higher expected wages for the man than for the woman, (ii) that the better matching of men in couples to local employers could account for up to 36% of the gender wage gap, and (iii) that the greatest asymmetry in the apparent importance of the man’s versus the woman’s potential earnings occurred among couples with pre-school age children and where the male partner had accounted for a larger share of household income before the potential move.

American Sociological Review,81 (2016): 900-920

Podcast on the paper (interviewed by Cristobal Young)

The who, why and how of spinoffs

May 27th, 2014 | Posted by admin in 2014 - (0 Comments)

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Studies have consistently found that entrepreneurs who enter industries in which they have prior experience as employees perform better than others. We nevertheless know relatively little about what accounts for these differences. The presumed explanation has generally been that these entrepreneurs benefit from the knowledge that they gained in their former jobs. But they might also differ from other entrepreneurs on a variety of other dimensions: Preferential access to resources or differing motivations, for example, may account for their decisions to enter known industries instead of new ones. Combining novel data from a representative survey of entrepreneurs in Denmark with a matched employer-employee database of all residents in Denmark, we examined how entrepreneurs with prior industry experience differed from those without and the extent to which these differences could account for the performance premium associated with prior industry experience. We found that those with industry experience came from younger, smaller and more profitable firms, and that they recruited more experienced employees, worked harder and placed less value on having flexible hours. The recruitment of more experienced employees and the greater effort exerted appeared to account for at least some of the performance advantage associated with prior industry experience.

Industrial and Corporate Change, 23 (2014): 661-688

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Entrepreneurs, even more than employees, tend to locate in regions in which they have deep roots. Here, we examine the performance implications of these choices. Whereas one might expect entrepreneurs with deep roots to perform better because of their richer endowments of social capital, they might also perform worse if their location choices rather reflect a preference for spending time with family and friends. We examine this question using comprehensive data on the Danish population. Entrepreneurs’ ventures perform better – survive longer and generate greater cash flows and cumulative profits – when they locate in regions in which they have deep roots (“home” regions). This effect appears substantial, similar in magnitude to the value of having prior experience in the industry entered (i.e. specific human capital).

Management Science, 58 (2012):1059-1071

 

The social attachment to place

January 4th, 2011 | Posted by admin in 2010 - (0 Comments)

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Many theories either implicitly or explicitly assume that individuals readily move to locations that improve their financial well being. Other forces, however, offset these tendencies; for example, people often wish to remain close to family and friends. We introduce a methodology for determining how individuals weight these countervailing forces, and estimate how both financial incentives and social factors influence the probability of geographic mobility in the Danish population from 2002 to 2003. Our results suggest that individuals respond to opportunities for higher pay elsewhere, but that their sensitivity to this factor pales in comparison to their preferences for living near family and friends.

Social Forces, 89 (2010): 633-658

The migration of technical workers

December 4th, 2009 | Posted by admin in 2010 - (0 Comments)

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Using panel data on the Danish population, we estimated the revealed preferences of scientists and engineers for the places in which they choose to work. Our results indicate that these technical workers exhibit substantial sensitivity to differences in wages but that they have even stronger preferences for living close to family and friends. The magnitude of these preferences, moreover, suggests that the greater geographic mobility of scientists and engineers, relative to the population as a whole, stems from more pronounced variation across regions in the wages that they can expect. These results remain robust to estimation on a sample of individuals who must select new places of work for reasons unrelated to their preferences—those who had been employed at establishments that discontinued operations.

Journal of Urban Economics, 67 (2010): 33-45

The embedded entrepreneur

December 1st, 2009 | Posted by admin in 2009 - (0 Comments)

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Using comprehensive data on the Danish population, this paper examines the determinants of entrepreneurs’ choices of where to locate their newventures. Our findings suggest that entrepreneurs place much more emphasis on being close to family and friends than on regional characteristics that might influence the performance of their ventures when deciding where to locate those businesses. Two factors could explain our findings: On the one hand, entrepreneurs may simply value proximity to family and friends. On the other hand, these relationships may help them to assemble the assets and to recruit the personnel that they need to succeed in their ventures. Our results suggest that the former plays the greater role in entrepreneurs’ location choices.

European Management Review, 6 (2009): 172-181

Corporate demography and income inequality

August 7th, 2009 | Posted by admin in 2007 - (0 Comments)

Jesper B. Sørensen and Olav Sorenson

We examine the relationship between income inequality and corporate demography in regional labor markets and specify two mechanisms through which the number and diversity of employers in a labor market affect wage dispersion. Vertical differentiation, or variation in the ability of organizations of a particular kind to benefit from labor inputs, amplifies inequality through quality sorting, as the most productive employees in a particular domain pair with the most productive employers. Increasing horizontal differentiation—variation in the kinds of organizations—reduces inequality as individuals can more easily find firms interested in their distinctive attributes and talents. Our analysis of Danish census data provides support for each thesis. Increased numbers of organizations operating within an industry in a region, a proxy for vertical differentiation, increases wage dispersion in that industry-region. Variation in wages, however, declines with increased horizontal differentiation among employers; this is measured by the diversity of industries offering employment within a region and the variance in firm sizes in an industry-region.

American Sociological Review, 72 (2007): 766-783