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Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation comprises three essays related to the economics of entrepreneurship. Self-employment is a fundamental part of the labor market experiences of workers and is key to economic growth. The first two chapters analyze the relationship between entrepreneurship and immigration. Immigrant entrepreneurship has been growing in the United States, particularly in the last four decades. In Chapter 1, I study the role that pre-migration work experience of immigrants plays in their occupational choices and earnings in the US. In the second chapter of this work, I analyze the relationship between business ownership in Mexico and migration to the US. Mexico is the top source country of immigrants to the US, and a significant fraction of its labor force works in the self-employment sector. Chapter 3 investigates the role that family control plays in different measures of firm performance, CEO turnover, termination payments, and investments in research and development. Many entrepreneurial endeavors arise in families, and family firms are prevalent in both the US and the rest of the world. Immigrant entrepreneurship in the United States has grown steadily in the last forty years. In Chapter 1, I study the occupational choices of legal permanent residents in the US and their associated earnings in paid and self-employment. Making use of a unique data set with pre- and post-migration individual-level information, I analyze the role of home country work experience of immigrants in their probability of becoming entrepreneurs in the US and their earnings after migration. To control for endogenous sector selection in the estimation of earnings distributions, I follow a novel identification strategy based on extremal quantile regressions that does not require exclusion restrictions or a large support variable. I find that foreign work experience in paid and self-employment is an important predictor of entrepreneurship after migration. However, it has a limited impact on earnings which are instead influenced by human capital, assimilation, and demographic characteristics. Overall, my results highlight the role played by immigrants' labor market performance in their home countries to better understand their outcomes in the US. Mexico is one of the countries with the highest self-employment rates in the OECD. While most of the literature has analyzed the occupational choices of returning migrants, I study the relationship between business ownership and migration from Mexico to the United States in Chapter 2. Using longitudinal data from the Mexican Migration Project (MMP), I find that business owners in Mexico are less likely to move North, either legally or illegally. The results are robust after controlling for other factors that have been found to affect migration decisions like age, household characteristics, human capital, and networks. Although running a business could allow individuals to accumulate the necessary resources to finance a costly trip to the US, it also raises the opportunity costs of leaving the country and could increase the attachment and non-pecuniary benefits of staying at home. The findings highlight the role played by the type of occupation held in the home country to better understand the phenomenon of Mexico-US immigration. The last chapter of my dissertation (a joint project), Chapter 3, analyzes a central element associated with entrepreneurial decisions: families. Many companies start at the household level with more than one family member involved. In some cases, firms grow very big and continue in the family for subsequent generations. Using a unique hand-collected data set with information on the last two decades of the universe of public corporations in the US, we examine the role played by family-related CEOs in firms' financial performance, turnover practices, and R&D investments. We provide new evidence showing that firms with CEOs with family relations to other board members, and who have been working for a firm for longer periods of time, are less likely to be forced out of office relative to outsider CEOs. In contrast, we do not find differences in voluntary turnover between outsider and insider CEOs. We document that companies tend to appoint managers who were already working for the firm in another position and do not have family relationships within the organization. We find that managers with longer tenures achieve higher financial performance in the short run, invest less in R&D, and get paid less in case of an involuntary termination than outsider CEOs. Our results are consistent with the notion that family-related CEOs may face different incentives within a company compared to unrelated managers, which could affect firms' outcomes and the interests of minority shareholders.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Barton H. Hamilton

Committee Members

Costas Azariadis, Ian Fillmore, Sanghmitra Gautam, George-Levi Gayle,

Available for download on Wednesday, May 15, 2120