Research interests

Collaboration Networks, Status, Economic Sociology, Strategic Management, Entrepreneurship, Social Networks, Social Reproduction of Hierarchy.


Dissertation Project 1: How do low-status actors climb the status ladder? Tie initiation with high-status firms and tie maintenance through role repetition and reversal (Job Market Paper)

Status provides firms with numerous advantages. The status literature suggests that one way of accumulating status is to affiliate with high-status actors, but for low-status firms, doing so is extremely challenging. High-status firms are unwilling to collaborate with them due to concerns about the low-status-firms’ quality as well as about status degradation. This paper seeks to solve this puzzle: how can a low-status firm form and manage relationships with prominent firms to climb the status hierarchy? The first part of the paper focuses on how low-status firms can form initial ties with high-status firms. In the second part, I examine the next stage of relationship formation: tie maintenance. I test my expectations using data on venture capital co-investment networks in the United States from 1980 to 2015. I find that low-status firms can increase the likelihood of reaching out of their league and initiate ties with middle-status firms when they have more common third parties as well as when potential partners have stronger interests in the industry of syndicate opportunities. Low-status firms can reach even further to lead tie initiations with firms at the top when they raise large-sized deals. Moreover, my results suggest that firms reap status benefits from maintaining initial ties, either by repeating the initial roles or by reciprocating the roles, and such status benefits come from not only the ties with higher-status firms but also from the ties with same- or lower-status firms.

Dissertation Project 2: Relational patterns of effective asynchronous collaborations: How tie strength and sequencing decrease coordination failure (with Marissa King)   

To achieve shared goals, collaborators must coordinate their actions, but coordination failure is prevalent. Coordination is even more challenging in asynchronous collaborations: collaborations characterized by fluid membership and temporal disconnections between collaborators. Asynchronous collaborators are vulnerable to coordination failure as they share little face-to-face—or even virtual—time and lack opportunities to coordinate their actions. While previous studies on coordination suggest many design features (e.g., reforming organizational structures, redesigning processes and practices, and institutionalizing boundary objects), one can hardly incorporate such designs in temporally dispersed collaborations with fluid membership. To this end, we investigate which relationship patterns of asynchronous collaborators reduce coordination failure by examining the effects of physician dyads’ tie strength and sequencing—iterative turn-taking during past collaborations—on failure in chronic patient care. By using data from mental health prescriptions and examining network histories of physician dyads, we find that strong ties are more likely to reduce coordination failure than weaker relationships only among cross-expertise physician dyads (those composed of a specialist and a generalist). Turn-taking, on the other hand, has a positive relationship with performance not only for cross-expertise dyads but also for same-expertise dyads. Our findings suggest that asynchronous collaborators can benefit from turn-taking, as such reciprocal work exchanges can provide much needed on-the-job opportunities. Moreover, asynchronous collaborators with different expertise can also benefit from repeated exchanges.

Other Research: How organizational and institutional factors reproduce inequality

In another research stream, I look at how organizational and institutional factors influence social inequality. In one paper, my co-authors and I explored whether evaluators in medical education have a bias against minority students, conditional on the same academic performances as non-minority students, as measured by test scores and clinical grades. We found evidence of racial bias such that African-American medical students were less likely to be inducted into an honor society than non-African-American students with the same academic and clinical performances. In another work with Marissa King and Jennifer Jennings, I examined heterogeneous effects of institutional environments by socioeconomic background on an individual health outcome. More specifically, we found educational environments were associated with the odds of ADHD remission for students with low socioeconomic status but not for students with high socioeconomic status, suggesting that institutional environment may play a critical role for individuals who have little resources to pursue best possible options.

  •  Thilan P. Wijesekera, Margeum Kim, Edward Z. Moore, Olav Sorenson, and David Ross. “All else equal: Exploring race and sex disparities in medical school honor society induction.” (Academic Medicine, 2018).
  • Margeum Kim, Marissa King, and Jennifer Jennings. “ADHD remission, inclusive special education, and socioeconomic disparities.” (Social Science and Medicine – Population Health, 2019).