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Matthew S. Bothner, Young-Kyu Kim, and Edward Bishop Smith

Two competing predictions about the effect of status on performance appear in the organizational theory and sociological literatures. On one hand, various researchers have asserted that status improves performance. This line of work emphasizes tangible and intangible resources that accrue to occupants of high-status positions and therefore pictures status as an asset. On the other hand, a second stream of research argues that status instead diminishes performance. This alternative line of work emphasizes complacency and distraction as deleterious processes that plague occupants of high-status positions and thus portrays status as a liability. Which of these two perspectives best characterizes the actual performance of individuals in a competitive setting? And are they in any way reconcilable? In this paper, we summarize these two perspectives and test them in two empirical settings: the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Using panel data on the PGA Tour, we model golfers’ strokes from par in each competition as a function of their status in the sport. Using similar data on NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series, we model drivers’ speed in the qualifying round as a function of their status in the sport. We find curvilinear effects of status in both contexts. Performance improves with status until a very high level of status is reached, after which performance wanes. This result not only concurs with the view that status brings tangible and intangible resources but also provides empirical support for the contention that status fosters dispositions and behaviors that ultimately erode performance.

Organization Science, 23 (2012): 416-433

Matthew S. Bothner, Edward Bishop Smith, and Harrison C. White

What makes an actor’s position in social structure robust rather than fragile? This article introduces a network model that pictures occupants of robust positions as recipients of diversified support from durably located others, and portrays occupants of fragile positions as dependents on tenuously situated others. The model builds from Herfindahl’s measure of concentration and Bonacich’s (1987) measure of status. Using Newcomb’s panel study of status-conferring flows among members of a college fraternity, we find empirical support for the contention that fragility reduces future growth in status. Extensions of the model both to input-output networks among industries in the U.S. economy and to hiring networks among academic departments are presented. Implications for future research are discussed.

American Journal of Sociology, 116 (2010): 943-992

Matthew S. Bothner

This article examines the effect of relative size on rates of firm growth. Although a number of prior studies have sought to pinpoint the effect of firm size on future growth, such efforts have been focused almost exclusively on absolute size, thereby neglecting the ways in which a firm’s scale advantages with respect to its competitors may independently determine its performance. This study extends recent work in network analysis, strategy and organizational ecology by developing a localized measure of relative size and showing that relative size has a strong positive effect on future growth, net of absolute size. Implications for future research are discussed.

Industrial and Corporate Change, 14 (2005): 617-638