Who Is on LinkedIn? Self-selection into Professional Online Networks

Steffen Brenner*, Sezen Aksin Sivrikaya, Joachim Schwalbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We analyze a large data set of fully employed individuals gathered through incentive-compatible surveys to study who joins professional social network sites (SNS) such as LinkedIn. We test the conflicting predictions that a) individuals who are unsatisfied with their career status adversely select into professional SNS in order to reap marginal online network benefits vs. b) high status individuals positively select into these networks because they are more likely to receive invitations to join. Our tests support b) and reject a). Similar estimations for private SNS (e.g., Facebook) reveal that the observed effects are specific to professional SNS and hence not driven by unobserved differences in social capital or the affinity to use social media. We also detect that environments conducive of professional social interactions increase the likelihood to use professional SNS. Controlling for sample selection bias does not qualitatively change the results.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Economics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)52-67
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 4. July, 2019


  • Adverse selection
  • Endogenous group formation
  • Social online networks

Cite this