Mobility, skills, and the michigan non-compete experiment

Matt Marx, Deborah Strumsky, Lee Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

310 Scopus citations


Whereas a number of studies have considered the implications of employee mobility, comparatively little research has considered institutional factors governing the ability of employees to move from one firm to another. This paper explores a legal constraint on mobility-employee non-compete agreements-by exploiting Michigan's apparently inadvertent 1985 reversal of its non-compete enforcement policy as a natural experiment. Using a differences-in-differences approach, and controlling for changes in the auto industry central to Michigan's economy, we find that the enforcement of non-competes indeed attenuates mobility. Moreover, noncompete enforcement decreases mobility more sharply for inventors with firm-specific skills and for those who specialize in narrow technical fields. The results speak to the literature on employee mobility while offering a credibly exogenous source of variation that can extend previous research on the implications of such mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)875-889
Number of pages15
JournalManagement Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Design of experiments
  • Innovation
  • Labor
  • Organizational studies
  • Personnel
  • Research and development
  • Statistics
  • Strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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