Filling the Gap: Firm Strategies for Human Capital Loss

Matthias Dorner, Fabian Gaessler, Dietmar Harhoff, Karin Hoisl, Felix Pöge

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This paper explores how the premature death of an inventor affects the productivity and career trajectories of co-inventors. To this end, we develop and analyze a dataset covering the careers of 152,350 German inventors. The data combine highly precise employer-employee data from official social security registers with patent office information covering the period from 1980-2014. Departing from 799 registered premature deaths of inventors and the same number of matched inventors, we study how co-inventors were affected by the death of their peers. Using a difference-in-differences and an event study design, we investigate the reaction of the co-inventors' patenting activities, career advancement and job mobility. Using a number of measures and robustness checks, our results show that the premature death of a co-inventor reduces the productivity of the surviving co-inventors. The effect sets in immediately and survivors do not seem to recover from the shock in the five years following. We argue that employers will seek to retain co-inventors under certain conditions in order to continue lines of research and invention. The empirical results confirm our expectations: surviving inventors are significantly less likely to move to a different employer and are more likely to be promoted compared to inventors in the control group. These effects seem to diminish after about two years.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eightieth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsGuclu Atinc
Number of pages5
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2020
Article number171
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2020: Broadening Our Sight - Virtual
Duration: 7 Aug 202011 Aug 2020
Conference number: 80


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2020
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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