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Theses Doctoral

Entrepreneurship and Incarceration

Hwang, Jiwon Kylie

This dissertation examines entrepreneurship as a way to overcome labor market discrimination. Specifically, the three empirical essays of this dissertation introduce and evaluate entrepreneurship as a career choice for the formerly incarcerated population in the United States, by studying the antecedents and economic and social impacts of entrepreneurship for formerly incarcerated individuals. The first essay examines whether entrepreneurship is a response to labor market discrimination for formerly incarcerated individuals and establishes entrepreneurship as a route to achieve economic and social reintegration. I take advantage of a quasi-experimental setting using the staggered implementation of the “Ban-the-Box” policy in the United States to disentangle the underlying mechanism of how labor market discrimination affects formerly incarcerated individuals in their entrepreneurial choices. The findings suggest that formerly incarcerated individuals, especially those who are African American, are pushed into entrepreneurship due to the discrimination they face from employers. Yet, I also find that entrepreneurship is a viable alternative career choice for formerly incarcerated people, yielding higher income and lower recidivism rates.

The second essay investigates the long-term impacts of entrepreneurship on subsequent employment outcomes for the formerly incarcerated population. This essay argues that entrepreneurship will benefit formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs in subsequent employment outcomes, because entrepreneurship provides a positive signal of commitment and fit to potential employers. Results suggest that, compared to formerly incarcerated individuals without any entrepreneurial experience, those with entrepreneurial experience have an increased likelihood of securing employment, regardless of actual entrepreneurial success. This is particularly true for formerly incarcerated individuals who are high school dropouts or racial, suggesting that entrepreneurship provides long-term benefits to those who are especially lacking in other positive credentials and, thus, are the most stigmatized by employers.

The third essay studies the entrepreneurial barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals face in starting their businesses and the implications of such barriers on entrepreneurial outcomes. I find that formerly incarcerated individuals are far less likely to gain access to capital from financial institutions or the government compared to similar non formerly incarcerated individuals, having to rely on personal savings or capital from family and friends. This barrier to gaining resources from financial institutions is more pronounced for African American or Hispanic formerly incarcerated individuals. Furthermore, I find that such barriers to entrepreneurship negatively impact the ventures that formerly incarcerated individuals found regarding the industry, longevity, size, and legal form. These findings provide implications to understanding how such barriers to entrepreneurship can inhibit the role of entrepreneurship as an alternative pathway for discriminated individuals to achieve upward mobility and integration.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Business
Thesis Advisors
Phillips, Damon J.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 16, 2021