Measuring Trends in Corporate Board Interlocking Amongst U.S. Firms

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Management Theory
Corporate Board Interlocking
Corporate Elite
Board Network
Management Sciences and Quantitative Methods
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The notion of a circle of “elites” who exercise influence over politics, legislation, and public life has motivated both academic and public discussion. How can we verify the existence of such a circle of board directors of large corporations? Gerald F. Davis and Johan Chu’s 2016 study “Who Killed the Inner Circle? The Decline of the American Corporate Interlock Network” finds that the degree of corporate board interlocking declined from 1997 to 2010. My thesis replicates and extends Chu and Davis’ methods to trends in board interlocking after 2010: I find increases in the connectivity of female and non-American directors; strong declines in corporate interlocks in the early 2000s; and weaker declines after 2010, implying a fracturing in the network of American corporate elites contrary to perceptions of its resurgence made popular by recent political rhetoric. These results yield surprising evidence against rhetoric about a dense network of elites exercising influence over American public life, and fruitful questions for future discussions on how changes in this “inner circle” have manifested.

Witold Henisz
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