Social Attachment to Place and Psychic Costs of Geographic Mobility: How Distance from Hometown and Vacation Flexibility Affect Job Performance
61 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2020
Date Written: 2019
Using a natural experiment and field interviews, this paper studies how social attachment to place imposes psychic costs on workers who experience geographic mobility. This is especially salient when workers are assigned to locations far from their hometown, which may subject them to increased psychic costs related to social attachment to their hometown. Based on semi-structured field interviews conducted with early career workers at an Indian technology firm, we propose that a key mechanism, “vacation flexibility”—that is, the flexibility to take vacation and travel back home when it matters the most—is relevant to the relation between distance from hometown and worker performance. By exploiting the Indian technology firm’s policy of randomly assigning entry-level employees to eight widely scattered locations, we are able to address selection concerns and validate that distance from hometown is negatively related to worker performance under conditions of lesser vacation flexibility compared to when the worker has more vacation flexibility. To offer evidence around the key mechanism of interest, we use subsample analyses and micro-data on leave taken by workers during the major Indian festival of Diwali. Our findings inform literatures on geographic mobility and geography of work, social attachment to place, workplace flexibility, hiring, migration, and early career experiences.
Keywords: distance from hometown, social attachment to place, psychic costs, worker performance, natural experiment
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