[Google Scholar Profile]

My work contributes to the fields of entrepreneurship, organizations, economic sociology, social inequality, gender, and historical/comparative sociology by examining how macro-level social conditions affect entrepreneurship, and how entrepreneurship affects social inequality in three complementary projects. First, I examine the institutional and organizational conditions under which entrepreneurs obtain adequate skills and knowledge to start new businesses. Second, I investigate how cultural beliefs about gender and institutional logics concerning entrepreneurship jointly influence men and women’s socioeconomic attainment in their new businesses. Finally, my dissertation extends my research from the American context to Sweden, and examines the mechanisms by which social networks in previous workplaces affect individuals’ entry into entrepreneurship and their opportunities to recruit employees. Together, these projects bridge multiple levels of analysis using a range of statistical methods to explain the founding of new organizations and their influence on social stratification processes.

Yang, Tiantian and Howard E. Aldrich. 2014. “Who’s the Boss? Explaining Gender Inequality in Entrepreneurial Teams.” American Sociological Review, 79(2):303-327.

[Article Link]

Sociologists have examined gender inequalities in human groups across a wide array of social contexts. Yet, questions remain regarding the mechanisms that explain gender inequalities in autonomous groups organized to pursue economic goals in competitive markets. In this paper, we investigate entrepreneurial teams — naturally forming groups involved in new business creation — to unpack the mechanisms by which gender inequality in leadership positions arises, despite strong pressures toward merit-based organizing principles. We theorize the potentially competing relationships between merit and gender, and empirically explore the contingencies moderating their effects on shaping leadership. Drawing on a unique, representative data set of entrepreneurial teams sampled from the U.S. population in 2005, we use conditional logistic regression to test our hypotheses. We demonstrate that merit outweighs the effect of gender in assigning leadership when uncertainty regarding task competence is low, and when entrepreneurial founders have adopted bureaucratic organizing templates to construct new ventures. However, family-based gender roles associated with spouses and children strongly affect access to the top role in emerging businesses. Gender logic is more salient in spousal teams than in teams consisting of friends or relatives, and the strength of the effect is highly contingent on husbands’ employment status and the number of children in households. Based on our findings, we discuss the alternative mechanisms driving gender inequalities in naturally occurring task groups, and offer implications for future research on gender inequality and entrepreneurship.

Yang, Tiantian, and Howard E. Aldrich. 2012. “Out Of Sight but Not Out Of Mind: Why Failure to Account for Left Truncation Biases Research on Failure Rates.” Journal of Business Venturing 27(4):477-92

[Article Link]

We note at least three major issues in entrepreneurship theory that can be clarified by studying the survival chances of new ventures: the extent to which entrepreneurs are so constrained by initial founding conditions that they are unable to learn; the degree to which heterogeneity and innovative capabilities are lost due to the failure of new ventures; and the imprinting effects of new ventures’ early days on their subsequent development. However, previous research on these issues has been inconclusive because of problems in research design and data analysis. In this paper, we shed light on new venture failure rates by assessing the validity and generalizability of previous findings. We argue that research using registration data to study new ventures is very likely to generate biased results and that research attempting to track new ventures from a very early stage can still suffer from selection bias due to left truncation. Using a sample of new ventures from the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics II, we provide evidence for the extent of such biases. We offer a statistical solution to left truncation that can be easily applied in widely used statistical programs.

Aldrich, Howard E., and Tiantian Yang. 2012. “Lost in Translation: Cultural Codes Are Not Blueprints.” Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal 6(1):1-17

[Article Link]

Entrepreneurship enjoys widespread appeal in nearly all capitalist nations, but startup success has proved elusive for most entrepreneurs. We explain the low likelihood of entrepreneurial success by focusing on the contrast between organizational forms in terms of cultural codes that tap into widely held perceptions versus organizational forms in terms of blueprints that sustain effective guidance for organizational activities. The dilemma facing nascent entrepreneurs during their life course is the incomplete and fragmentary nature of these opportunities for learning about startup practices. We conclude the paper by offering suggestions for further research to discover what entrepreneurs actually do during the startup process.


In my dissertation, I expanded my interest in entrepreneurship in the United States to a different national context, Sweden, while my enthusiasm for the connections between entrepreneurs, new firms, and social inequality, and my commitment to rigorous research design remain. I use panel data from multiple cohorts on organizations representing all industries in Sweden to examine the conditions that affect employees’ entry into entrepreneurship and their subsequent success. In the first essay, I examine how entrepreneurs’ social networks in previous workplaces affect their decisions to hire employees. By examining multiple mechanisms of social influence among work peers, I am able to partially explain how peer influence shapes entrepreneurs’ recruitment of prior coworkers to build their labor force, contingent on their prior life experience and social proximity among work peers. In the second essay, I investigate the consequences of initial hires for startups’ performance; in particular, I examine their revenue growth and subsequent employment size. In my third essay, I draw on a community ecology perspective to explain the consequences of industrial agglomerations for entrepreneurial activities. Throughout my dissertation, I place a strong emphasis on research design and causal inference, while maintaining clarity and candor about the strengths and limitations of my data and methodological approaches in each essay.

Working Papers under Review

Yang, Tiantian, Howard Aldrich, and Frederic Delmar, “Forged in the Heat of Battle: Organizational Conditions Affecting Employees’ Entry into Entrepreneurship”

Yang, Tiantian, and Maria Triana “Set Up to Fail: Explaining Why Women-led Businesses Are More Likely to Fail”

Yang, Tiantian, and Howard Aldrich, “All Organizations Were Once New: Revisiting Stinchcombe’s ‘Liability of Newness.’”

Zarutskie, Rebecca, and Tiantian Yang, 2016, “Measuring Entrepreneurial Businesses: Current Knowledge and Challenges”, National Bureau of Economic Research Volume, Measuring Entrepreneurial Businesses: Current Knowledge and Challenges, University of Chicago Press, Edited by John Haltiwanger, Erik Hurst, Javier Miranda, and Antoinette Schoar

Work in Progress

Yang, Tiantian, and Chris Rider “On the Edge or In Between: Being in the Right Place to Become Entrepreneurs”

Yang, Tiantian, and Matthew Bidwell “Careers as an Industry Structure Problem: Specialization in Training and the New Ports of Entry”

Yang, Tiantian, and Karl Wennberg “Gender Inequality in Entrepreneurship: An Extension of Search-decision Model”

Yang, Tiantian, and Karl Wennberg “When do Entrepreneurs Learn from Peers? A Contingent Approach to Peer Influence”

Doering, Laura, and Tiantian Yang (Authors Listed Alphabetically) “Gifting Among the Poor: Explaining Gender Differences in Generosity”