Our Research

Networks Can Explain Who Profits and How Industries Survive

Networks Can Explain Who Profits and How Industries Survive

Olav Sorenson

Social relationships influence individuals’ and organizations’ access to information and resources. The patterns of relationships connecting actors therefore can help to explain both who profits and the evolution of industries. With various coauthors, I have explored a number of inter-related issues.

Economic Geography

Why do industries tend to cluster and how does this affect their performance? Entrepreneurs must assemble capital, employees, and ideas to get their ventures going. Since they generally must use networks to mobilize these resources ñ and those networks tend to cluster in social and physical space ñ entrepreneurs tend to enter the regions and industries in which they have experience. Industry clusters therefore form because of the constraints on entrepreneurs rather than because concentration represents an economically efficient means of industrial organization.

Social Capital

The existence of relationships does not guarantee that actors can benefit from them. They may not control the resources of value and other actors may attempt to arbitrage away any advantages that some might appear to have in the short term. My research in this area (1) has theoretically explored the conditions necessary to ensure that actors can benefit from a relationship or configuration of relationships; (2) has empirically examined when relationships appear to give actors privileged access to resources; and (3) has also examined whether transactions facilitated by existing relationships create value or simply transfer wealth from one party to another.