Do Informal Contracts Matter for Corporate Innovation? Evidence from Social Capital

Atul Gupta, Kartik Raman, and Chenguang Shang

We examine the relevance of informal contracting mechanisms for corporate innovation. Using social capital to capture the social costs imposed on opportunistic behavior by management, we report evidence that firms headquartered in states with higher levels of social capital are associated with more innovation. This result is more pronounced when employees are more susceptible to holdup, e.g., firms with low labor union coverage, firms located in states with weak legal protections for employees, firms surrounded by few external employment opportunities, or when employees face higher levels of information asymmetry. Our study highlights the importance of informal contracts for innovation.