Social Influence Given (Partially) Deliberate Matching: Career Imprints in the Creation of Academic Entrepreneurs
47 Pages Posted: 28 May 2009
Date Written: May 27, 2009
Actors often match with associates on a small set of dimensions that matter most for the particular relationship at hand. In so doing, they are exposed to unanticipated social influences because counterparts have more interests, attitudes, and preferences than would-be associates considered when they first chose to pair. This implies that some apparent social influences (those tied to the rationales for forming the relationship) are endogenous to the matching process, while others (those that are incidental to the formation of the relationship) may be conditionally exogenous, thus enabling causal estimation of peer effects. We illustrate this idea in a new data set tracking the training and professional activities of academic biomedical scientists. In qualitative and quantitative analyzes, we show that scientists match to their postdoctoral mentors based on two dominant factors, geography and scientific focus. They then adopt their advisers' orientations toward commercial science as evidenced by the transmission of patenting behavior, but they do not match on this dimension. We demonstrate this in two-stage models that adjust for the endogeneity of the matching process, using a modification of propensity score estimation and a sample selection correction with valid exclusion restrictions. Furthermore, we draw on qualitative accounts of the matching process recorded in oral histories of the career choices of the scientists in our data. All three methods - qualitative description, propensity score estimators, and those that tackle selection on unobservable factors - are potential approaches to establishing evidence of social influence in partially endogenous networks, and they may be especially persuasive in combination.
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