Social Network and Inequality in Career Outcomes: Evidence From Prosecutors in Korea

MinSub Kim , The Ohio State University

This paper examines the effect of connections with successful senior prosecutors on the probability of promotion for junior prosecutors in South Korea. Successful seniors are defined using the highest rank each senior achieved. To identify a causal network effect, I exploit exogenous variation in networks arising from personnel transfer assignments. Using a dataset on the population of prosecutors, I find a positive network effect: a one standard deviation increase in the number of connections with successful seniors increases the probability of being promoted for a junior by 10.1 percentage points. I evaluate the importance of three potential mechanisms: (1) skill spillovers from a senior to a junior, (2) transmission of information on a junior's characteristics, and (3) nepotism based on alma mater connections. Empirical evidence consistently indicates information transmission as potential mechanisms facilitating network effect. Skill spillovers and nepotism also have a role in determining a junior prosecutor's promotion.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality