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The Employee Clientele of Corporate Leverage: Evidence from Personal Labor Income Diversification

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  • Jie (Jack) He
  • Tao Shu
  • Huan Yang

Abstract

Using employee job-level data, we empirically test the equilibrium matching between a firm’s debt usage and its employee job risk aversion (“clientele effect”), as predicted by the existing theories. We measure job risk aversion for a firm’s employees using their labor income concentration in the firm, calculated as the fraction of the employees’ total personal labor income or total household labor income that is accounted for by their income from this particular firm. Using a sample of about 1,400 U.S. public firms from 1990-2008, we find a robust negative relation between leverage and employee job risk aversion, which is consistent with the clientele effect. Specifically, when a firm’s existing employees have higher labor income concentration in it, the firm tends to have lower contemporaneous and future leverage. Moreover, in terms of new hires, firms with lower leverage are more likely to recruit employees with less alternative labor income. Our results continue to hold after we control for firm fixed effects, other employee characteristics such as wages, gender, age, race, and education, and managerial risk attitudes. Further, the matching between a firm’s leverage and its workers’ labor income concentration in it is more pronounced for firms with higher labor intensity and those in financial distress.

Suggested Citation

  • Jie (Jack) He & Tao Shu & Huan Yang, 2018. "The Employee Clientele of Corporate Leverage: Evidence from Personal Labor Income Diversification," Working Papers 18-01, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:18-01
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2018/CES-WP-18-01.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    clientele effect; personal labor income diversification; employee job risk aversion; leverage; capital structure; Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database;

    JEL classification:

    • G30 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - General
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G39 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Other

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