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
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
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