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Non-compete Covenants: Incentives to Innovate or Impediments to Growth

Non-compete covenants are clauses written into contracts that expressly prohibit individuals from competing with former employers. Particularly for technical workers and upper-level management, they have developed to become a common feature of employment contracts. Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson research this issue and determine whether they encourage innovation or impede growth in their paper, “Non-compete Covenants: Incentives to Innovate or Impediments to Growth.”

They find that the enforcement of non-compete clauses significantly impedes entrepreneurship, employment growth and innovation. The authors believe that this may be due to the fact that the “value of the recombination of knowledge facilitated by the elevated mobility of individuals across firms might outweigh the greater incentives to innovate afforded by the enforcement of these non-compete covenants.” Furthermore, their results show “relative to states that enforce non-compete covenants, an increase in the local supply of venture capital in states that restrict the scope of these agreements has significantly stronger positive effects on (i) the number of patents, (ii) the number of firm starts, and (iii) employment.” Finally, their findings point to a strong interaction between financial intermediation and the legal regime in promoting entrepreneurship and economic growth.

Paper

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