Melanie Wallskog
Job Market Candidate

Stanford University
Department of Economics
579 Jane Stanford Way
Stanford, CA 94305

I will join the Finance area of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University as an Assistant Professor in July 2022. Please visit my new website at

photo of Melanie Wallskog

Curriculum Vitae

Primary Fields:
Labor Economics, Entrepreneurship

Secondary Field:

Expected Graduation Date:
June 2022

Dissertation Committee:

Nicholas Bloom (Primary):

Peter J. Klenow:

Isaac Sorkin:

Job Market Paper

Entrepreneurial Spillovers Across Coworkers
Using large-scale administrative data, I track the employment and entrepreneurship of over forty million Americans and investigate entrepreneurial spillovers across coworkers, based on the idea that individuals who start their own firms learn institutional knowledge and entrepreneurial skills that they may teach others. I find that an individual whose current coworkers have more prior entrepreneurship experience is more likely to become an entrepreneur themself within the next five years, and these spillovers are strongest among workers with similar jobs and demographics. Furthermore, an individual is more likely to become a successful entrepreneur if those coworkers were themselves successful entrepreneurs. To quantify the role of these spillovers, I build a structural model of entrepreneurship and learning and estimate that the aggregate entrepreneurship rate would be 10% lower in the absence of learning.
Media coverage by Jordi Blanes i Vidal's The Visible Hand podcast
Media coverage by Matt Clancy's New Things Under the Sun #1 and #2

Working Papers

The Slow Diffusion of Earnings Inequality with Isaac Sorkin
Over the last several decades, rising pay dispersion between firms accounts for the majority of the dramatic increase in earnings inequality in the United States. This paper shows that a distinct cross-cohort pattern drives this rise: newer cohorts of firms enter more dispersed and stay more dispersed throughout their lives. A similar cohort pattern drives a variety of other closely related facts: increases in worker sorting across firms on the basis of pay, education, and age, and increasing productivity dispersion across firms. We discuss two important implications. First, these cohort patterns suggest a link between changes in firm entry associated with the decline in business dynamism and the rise in earnings inequality. Second, cohort effects imply a slow diffusion of inequality: we expect inequality to continue to rise as older and more equal cohorts of firms are replaced by younger and more unequal cohorts. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that this momentum could be substantial with increases in between-firm inequality in the next two decades almost as large as in last two.

Pay, Productivity and Management with Nicholas Bloom, Scott Ohlmacher, and Cristina Tello-Trillo
Using confidential matched employer-employee earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we find that employees at more productive firms and at firms with more structured management practices have substantially higher pay, both on average and across every percentile of the pay distribution. This pay-performance relationship is particularly strong amongst higher paid employees, with a doubling of firm productivity associated with 11% more pay for the highest-paid employee (likely the CEO) compared to 4.7% for the median worker. This pay-performance link holds in public and private firms, although it is almost twice as strong in public firms for the highest-paid employees. Top pay volatility is also strongly related to productivity and structured management, suggesting this performance-pay relationship arises from more aggressive monitoring and incentive practices for top earners.
CES working paper
Posting in the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance
Media coverage by the Harvard Business Review

Work In-Progress

Should You Become an Entrepreneur or a Corporate Employee? with Mahdi Eghbali
This research leverages variation in the characteristics of firm founders and the accelerator programs in which they participate to study predictors of entrepreneurial success, including firm growth and innovative behavior. Based on hand-collected data on accelerator program participants, first we study how the work experience and project-orientation (e.g., problem- vs. solution-based) of new firms predicts their success. Second, we study how the structure of accelerator programs, for instance whether they provide direct access to venture capital (VC) funding, to understand the relative benefits of different accelerators. Because entrepreneurs may select into particular accelerator programs to suit their needs, we attempt to account for this selection (endogeneity) by selecting as controls entrepreneurs who are similar but have different experiences or participate in different programs; we do this using a variety of methods, including matching and synthetic controls. In order to limit the concern of multiple hypothesis testing, we additionally estimate LASSO and other restricted regressions that identify the key predictors of entrepreneurial success in our setting.

Other Papers

The Impact of Homelessness Prevention Programs on Homelessness (2016) with Bill Evans and Jim Sullivan, Science, 353(6300), 694-699.
Despite the prevalence of temporary financial assistance programs for those facing imminent homelessness, there is little evidence of their impact. Using data from Chicago from 2010 to 2012 (n = 4448), we demonstrate that the volatile nature of funding availability leads to good-as-random variation in the allocation of resources to individuals seeking assistance. To estimate impacts, we compare families that call when funds are available with those who call when they are not. We find that those calling when funding is available are 76% less likely to enter a homeless shelter. The per-person cost of averting homelessness through financial assistance is estimated as $10,300 and would be much less with better targeting of benefits to lower-income callers. The estimated benefits, not including many health benefits, exceed $20,000.
Materials and Methods Supplementary text
Data and Programs
Media coverage by the University of Notre Dame, "What Would You Fight For?" series
Media coverage by Science Magazine
Media coverage by WGN Radio, Chicago

Strong versus Weak Ties: Social Mobility of British WWI Soldiers with Jonas Mueller-Gastell
At the onset of World War I, Britain's military raised military units in three distinct ways: some regiments drew men from across all social classes and across the country, some regiments emerged from the local units of the Territorial Force (TF), and thirdly, some regiments enlisted family members, neighbors, and coworkers in groups. These cohesive and homogenous "Pals battalions" were, in part, a direct response to the opposition of upper class men to serve alongside the lower classes. This unique military structure allows us to test the effect of expanding your social network across class and occupation boundaries on occupational mobility. We compare regular regiment enlistees to the Territorial Force and Pals Battalions enlistees using World War I enlistment records and the post-war 1939 Register. Across a variety of measures of occupational mobility, we find suggestive evidence that, in particular for unskilled soldiers, the weak ties of non-Pals, non-TF soldiers contributed more to upward social mobility than the strong ties of Pals and the TF.


Teaching Assistant for Prof. Caroline Hoxby, Stanford University, Econ 146 (Economics of Education)
2019-2020, Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
Student evaluations (organized by student)
Student evaluations (organized by question)