Entrepreneurship and Inequality: The Role of Incumbent Firms
65 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2019 Last revised: 9 Dec 2019
Date Written: July 1, 2019
Using an exogenous variation in entry barriers, we develop and test a theory of wage inequality due to higher levels of startup entry. Researchers have argued that startups generate greater inequality in the labor market because new ventures lead to a higher within- and between-firm dispersion of wages. We propose an alternative explanation: a competitive response of incumbent firms to the threat of talent loss. When threatened by startup entry, incumbents will reallocate rewards among their own workers to prevent the loss of valuable employees to newly founded firms, thus generating greater wage inequality. We exploit a natural experiment provided by deregulation in Portugal and its effect on wage inequality between 1995 and 2009. Using a difference-in-differences methodology we find that, following an exogenous rise in the threat of startup entry, wage inequality increased. This threat further resulted in wider disparities in wages between high and low earners, as the former experienced greater increases in their bargaining power than the latter. Finally, increases in wage inequality inside incumbent firms were amplified in industries with higher rates of mobility to startups and greater human-capital intensity.
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