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Family Ties and Organizational Design: Evidence from Chinese Private Firms


  • Cai, Hongbin
  • Li, Hongbin
  • Park, Albert
  • Zhou, Li-An


Analyzing data from a unique survey of managers of Chinese private firms, we investigate how family ties with firm heads affect managerial compensation and job assignment. We find that family managers earn higher salaries and receive more bonuses, hold higher positions, and are given more decision rights and job responsibilities than non-family managers in the same firm. However, family managers face weaker incentives than professional managers as seen in the lower sensitivity of their bonuses to firm performance. Our findings are consistent with the predictions of a principal-agent model that incorporates family trust and endogenous job assignment decisions. We show that alternative explanations, such as taste-based favoritism, succession concerns, and unobserved ability or risk attitudes, are unlikely to drive our results.

Suggested Citation

  • Cai, Hongbin & Li, Hongbin & Park, Albert & Zhou, Li-An, 2010. "Family Ties and Organizational Design: Evidence from Chinese Private Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 7855, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7855

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nicholas Bloom & Christos Genakos & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen, 2011. "Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," CEP Discussion Papers dp1109, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2007. "Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1351-1408.
    3. Li, Hongbin & Meng, Lingsheng & Wang, Qian & Zhou, Li-An, 2008. "Political connections, financing and firm performance: Evidence from Chinese private firms," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 283-299, October.
    4. Kato, Takao & Long, Cheryl, 2006. "Executive Compensation, Firm Performance, and Corporate Governance in China: Evidence from Firms Listed in the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(4), pages 945-983, July.
    5. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162, March.
    6. repec:hrv:faseco:30747162 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Juergen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Working Papers 2096, The Field Experiments Website.
    8. Bhattacharya, Utpal & Ravikumar, B, 2001. "Capital Markets and the Evolution of Family Businesses," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74(2), pages 187-219, April.
    9. Ilias, Nauman, 2006. "Families and firms: Agency costs and labor market imperfections in Sialkot's surgical industry," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 329-349, August.
    10. Liu, Deqiang & Otsuka, Keijiro, 2004. "A Comparison of Management Incentives, Abilities, and Efficiency between SOEs and TVEs: The Case of the Iron and Steel Industry in China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(4), pages 759-780, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Oriana Bandiera & Luigi Guiso & Andrea Prat & Raffaella Sadun, 2015. "Matching Firms, Managers, and Incentives," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(3), pages 623-681.
    2. van Hoorn, Andre, 2013. "Trust and Organizational Design: Explaining Cross-National Differences in Work Autonomy," MPRA Paper 80016, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Qiuqiong Huang & Scott Rozelle & Dinghuan Hu, 2007. "Pump-set clusters in China: explaining the organization of the industry that revolutionized Asian agriculture," Asia-Pacific Development Journal, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), vol. 14(2), pages 75-105, December.
    4. Zhou, Weina, 2014. "Brothers, household financial markets and savings rate in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 34-47.
    5. Eugene Bempong Nyantakyi, 2016. "Family ties, firm performance and managerial compensations in African SMEs," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 493-501, March.
    6. repec:eee:corfin:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:461-476 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    authority; China; family firm; incentives;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects


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