IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Who Lives in the C-Suite? Organizational Structure and the Division of Labor in Top Management


  • Guadalupe, Maria

    () (INSEAD)

  • Li, Hongyi

    () (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

  • Wulf, Julie M.

    () (Harvard Business School)


This paper shows that top management structures in large US firms radically changed since the mid-1980s. While the number of managers reporting directly to the CEO doubled, the growth was driven primarily by functional managers rather than general managers. Using panel data on senior management positions, we explore the relationship between changes in executive team composition, firm diversification, and IT investments – which arguably alter returns to exploiting synergies through corporate-wide coordination by functional managers in headquarters. We find that the number of functional managers closer to the product ("product" functions i.e., marketing, R&D) increase as firms focus their businesses, while the number of functional managers farther from the product ("administrative" functions i.e., finance, law, HR) increase with IT investments. Finally, we show that general manager pay decreases as functional managers join the executive team suggesting a shift in activities from general to functional managers – a phenomenon we term "functional centralization."

Suggested Citation

  • Guadalupe, Maria & Li, Hongyi & Wulf, Julie M., 2012. "Who Lives in the C-Suite? Organizational Structure and the Division of Labor in Top Management," IZA Discussion Papers 6635, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6635

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nicholas Bloom & Luis Garicano & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen, 2014. "The Distinct Effects of Information Technology and Communication Technology on Firm Organization," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(12), pages 2859-2885, December.
    2. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    3. Jacques Crémer & Luis Garicano & Andrea Prat, 2007. "Language and the Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 373-407.
    4. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376.
    5. Wouter Dessein & Luis Garicano & Robert Gertner, 2010. "Organizing for Synergies," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 77-114, November.
    6. Charles W. L. Hill & Michael A. Hitt & Robert E. Hoskisson, 1992. "Cooperative Versus Competitive Structures in Related and Unrelated Diversified Firms," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 3(4), pages 501-521, November.
    7. Alfred D. Chandler, 1969. "Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262530090, January.
    8. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Frank Wiengarten & Chris K. Y. Lo & Jessie Y. K. Lam, 2017. "“How does Sustainability Leadership Affect Firm Performance? The Choices Associated with Appointing a Chief Officer of Corporate Social Responsibility”," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 140(3), pages 477-493, February.
    2. Dessein, Wouter & Galeotti, Andrea & Santos, Tano, 2013. "Rational Inattention and Organizational Focus," CEPR Discussion Papers 9395, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. MIYAJIMA Hideaki & OGAWA Ryo & USHIJIMA Tatsuo, 2017. "Are Smaller (Larger) Corporate Headquarters Better?," Discussion papers 17004, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    4. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:5:p:1121-1133 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Valerie Smeets, 2017. "Can firms oversee more workers with fewer managers?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 333-333, February.
    6. Betzer, André & Ibel, Maximilian & Lee, Hye Seung & Limbach, Peter & Salas, Jesus M., 2016. "Are generalists beneficial to corporate shareholders? Evidence from sudden deaths," CFR Working Papers 16-12, University of Cologne, Centre for Financial Research (CFR).
    7. André Betzer & Maximilian Ibel & Hye Seung (Grace) Lee & Peter Limbach & Jesus M. Salas, 2017. "Are Generalists Beneficial to Corporate Shareholders? Evidence from Sudden Deaths," Schumpeter Discussion Papers SDP16009, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.

    More about this item


    communication; organizational design; functions; centralization; M-form; hierarchy; top management team; information technology; activities; diversification;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6635. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.