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Airing Your Dirty Laundry: Vertical Integration, Reputational Capital, and Social Networks


  • Ricard Gil
  • Wesley R. Hartmann


This article explores the relationship between an ethnic-based social network and vertical integration decisions in the laundry services industry. We find that stores in the social network are significantly less likely to vertically integrate than nonmember stores. This has three primary implications. First, the social network may be lowering the costs of using the market more than facilitating in-house production. This implies better outsourcing opportunities in a social network and may explain a documented relationship between social networks and firm economic performance. Second, institutional details of our example and the estimated relationship suggest a role for opportunism and reputation as determinants of the boundaries of the firm in a setting without asset specificity. Finally, although we provide evidence that better access to credit can increase the likelihood of vertical integration, we show that better outsourcing opportunities have a dominant effect of the social network in this particular setting. The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Yale University. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricard Gil & Wesley R. Hartmann, 2011. "Airing Your Dirty Laundry: Vertical Integration, Reputational Capital, and Social Networks," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(2), pages 219-244.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:27:y::i:2:p:219-244

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jonathan Levin, 2003. "Relational Incentive Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 835-857, June.
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    6. Robert T. Deacon & Henning Bohn, 2000. "Ownership Risk, Investment, and the Use of Natural Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 526-549, June.
    7. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, September.
    8. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-1156.
    9. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 2002. "Relational Contracts and the Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 39-84.
    10. Robert S. Pindyck, 1999. "The Long-Run Evolutions of Energy Prices," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 1-27.
    11. Kobrin, Stephen J., 1980. "Foreign enterprise and forced divestment in LDCs," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(01), pages 65-88, December.
    12. W. J. Henisz, 2000. "The Institutional Environment for Economic Growth," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(1), pages 1-31, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francisco Brahm & Jorge Tarzijan, 2016. "Relational Contracts and Collaboration in the Supply Chain: Impact of Expected Future Business Volume on the Make-or-Buy Decision," Journal of Supply Chain Management, Institute for Supply Management, vol. 52(3), pages 48-67, July.
    2. C. Kirabo Jackson & Henry S. Schneider, 2011. "Do Social Connections Reduce Moral Hazard? Evidence from the New York City Taxi Industry," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 244-267, July.
    3. Francine Lafontaine & Margaret Slade, 2007. "Vertical Integration and Firm Boundaries: The Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 629-685, September.

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