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TIM-troduction: Jang Woo Kim


Let us introduce Jang Woo Kim of Bocconi, which is in the bellisima cita of Milano, Italia. Jang Woo, you recently won were runner up for an award at the 2021 Annual Meeting - congratulations! So…

What are your research interests right now?

By far, most of my research are about human capital, and is founded on the tradition of the human capital literature. While I often use U.S. patent data to examine my questions, I have a broad spectrum of research interests. I like to connect different theories and datasets to those in my own domain. I have used stakeholder theory, economic geography, corporate strategy, and other literatures. 

During my PhD, I was motivated to investigate flows of human capital and knowledge in spite of frictions and barriers. Now, my next steps are to move toward finding how individual heterogeneity in human capital shapes heterogeneity in their decision-making and subsequent performance. 

What do you think is your most exciting contribution to academia?

I am adding little blocks to the huge literature about the mobility barriers. I don’t know what would make the audience of my papers get excited, but my dissertation has made me interested and excited by verifying that lower barriers increase the flows of human capital and knowledge.  

At the 2021 Conference you were runner up to an award from TIM. Tell us about the paper and why you think its findings are important

My doctoral dissertation investigated the association between the mobility of human capital (and flow of knowledge) and the barriers related to such mobility at three different levels of analysis: region, firm, and individual.

Overall the three chapters examine how corporate scientists, a proxy of human capital, change their regional or organizational affiliation when the mobility barrier given to them is removed or lowered. However, the types of such costs vary across the chapters. In the first chapter, I used interregional airline connection as an instrument that reduces costs associated with business traveling. In the second chapter, I used interfirm alliance as a situation, in which the partners got more informed about each other’s human capital. In the third chapter, the employment contracts of the employees of a recently acquired firm are transferred from the target to the acquirer rather than formed as a consequence of labour market sorting and matching processes.  

While each chapter in my dissertation has strategic human capital in common, each also addresses different types of literature: economic geography, corporate strategy, stakeholder strategy, and so on. Thus, my dissertation is interdisciplinary. Furthermore, I constructed a dataset about mobility of corporate scientists and knowledge spillovers from the USPTO’s patent data, which I then merged with different types of data (i.e. M&A, alliance, transportation, FDA drug data).  

Findings from the first and the second chapters show that the relationship between the firms and the regions are important factor for corporate scientists to move across them (firms/regions). The third paper indicates that the firm’s quality as an employer is crucial for the corporate scientists’ decision to leave or stay at the firm.  

I think my dissertation is a structured one. Its chapters share the main theory, the main dataset, and the main question. They are different in their levels of analysis. Also, they have a variety of datasets and theories matched to the main theory and main dataset.

Tell us something personal about yourself.

Hmm… Two trivial data points about my dissertation. First, my dissertation was wrapped up when I was hospitalized for COVID-19. Second, I am a whimsical person. I wrote a dissertation about mobility because I am a mobile person. I have also graduated from schools in five different countries: Korea, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, and Italy. In addition, I spent a few months in Berlin during my PhD.

Thanks Jang Woo!

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