Employee Non-compete Agreements, Gender, and Entrepreneurship

37 Pages Posted: 20 May 2018 Last revised: 24 Aug 2020

See all articles by Matt Marx

Matt Marx

Cornell University, SC Johnson College of Business; NBER

Date Written: May 4, 2020


I contribute to the literature on institutions, gender, and entrepreneurship by showing that macro-level institutional policies that do not explicitly target women disproportionately affect their ability to leverage prior professional experience in founding new ventures. Examining workers in 25 states and the District of Columbia from 1990-2014, I find that women subject to tighter non-compete policies are less likely to leave their employers and start rival businesses. Two mechanisms suggest that non-competes contribute to a disproportionate “chilling effect” on entrepreneurship among women. First, women face higher relative costs of potential litigation due to lower earnings prior to founding. Second, women fact a higher wage penalty when returning to paid employment following an unsuccessful venture. The effect is not explained by actual non-compete lawsuits, where women are markedly underrepresented.

Keywords: entrepreneurship, gender, non-competes

JEL Classification: L26, P48, J41, J16

Suggested Citation

Marx, Matt, Employee Non-compete Agreements, Gender, and Entrepreneurship (May 4, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3173831 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3173831

Matt Marx (Contact Author)

Cornell University, SC Johnson College of Business ( email )

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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