When Do Ethnic Communities Affect Foreign Location Choice? Dual Entry Strategies of Korean Banks in China

Academy of Management Journal, 2018

44 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018

See all articles by Yong Li

Yong Li

University of Nevada Las Vegas

Exequiel Hernandez

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Sunhwan Gwon

Keimyung University

Date Written: March 9, 2018


Research shows that firms tend to expand into foreign locations with sizeable co-ethnic communities. Yet many cases exist in which the ethnic community influences the investment choice of the same firm in one location but not in another. We offer an institutional lens to explain this heterogeneity in location choice. Ethnic groups function like informal institutions that facilitate transactions between a foreign firm and customers, suppliers, and information providers through interpersonal exchange. Relying on ethnic communities to mediate transactions in foreign markets is valuable but limited by the relatively small scale of these communities. In contrast, relying on formal institutions allows firms to expand more broadly into the foreign market because the impersonal exchange inherent in formal governance is more scalable. This is manifested in ‘dual entry strategies’ by which ethnic communities have a significantly stronger influence on location choice in places with unreliable (weak and unstable) formal institutions than in in places with reliable formal institutions. We found support for these ideas using a unique dataset of South Korean banks’ investments in Chinese provinces during 1992-2013. To mitigate endogeneity concerns, we exploited a historical migration that created a quasi-random distribution of ethnic Koreans across provinces. Our work contributes to research on international expansion, ethnic communities, and institutional theory.

Keywords: Ethnic Communities, Immigration, Institutions, Location Choice, Foreign Direct Investment, China

JEL Classification: M16

Suggested Citation

Li, Yong and Hernandez, Exequiel and Gwon, Sunhwan, When Do Ethnic Communities Affect Foreign Location Choice? Dual Entry Strategies of Korean Banks in China (March 9, 2018). Academy of Management Journal, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3143909

Yong Li

University of Nevada Las Vegas ( email )

4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States

Exequiel Hernandez (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

Sunhwan Gwon

Keimyung University ( email )

1095 Dalgubeol-daero, Dalseo-gu
Daegu, 42601
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)
82-53-580-6380 (Phone)

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