Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Strategic Management

Committee Director

William Q. Judge

Committee Member

Anil Nair

Committee Member

Stephen Lanivich

Committee Member

Edward Markowski


Each of the three essays contained in this dissertation examine the relationship between institutions and entrepreneurship. The underlying theory that institutions shape entrepreneurs' outcomes is well established. However, the ways in which they do so turn out to be quite nuanced and show marked dissimilarities where low income individuals are involved in the entrepreneurship process. Each essay seeks to understand and identify what contexts individuals are more likely to participate in meaningful, development-oriented entrepreneurship. In essays I and III, the focus is on individuals at the bottom of the economic spectrum.

Essay I links opportunity entrepreneurship to the presence of venture scripts in subsistence economies. The absence of venture scripts (expert entrepreneurial cognitions) helps explain why so many entrepreneurship-enabling organizations, including microfinance organizations, fail or are ineffective in these economies. These organizations often attempt to facilitate entrepreneurship without transferring and instilling important venture arrangement scripts, venture willingness scripts, and venture ability scripts. To maximize impact, entrepreneurship-enabling organizations must begin the arduous process of institutionalizing venture scripts. The model presented conceptualizes this process using Social Cognitive Theory to explain how social connections and interactions introduce, establish, and begin to institutionalize venture scripts. Two social capital dimensions, bridging social capital and local embeddedness, are critical for the establishment of these embryonic informal institutions. Essay I concludes by using the cases of two entrepreneurship-enabling organizations (Milma and Dastkar from India) to illustrate this process and lead to marked success stories. These two organizations certainly create opportunity entrepreneurs rather than necessity entrepreneurs and their example illustrates the power of the conceptual model.

Essay II takes a macro-level approach and examines opportunity entrepreneurship at the country-level. Specifically, I utilize Whitley's (1999) national business system's framework to better understand society's aggregate level of opportunity entrepreneurship. Opportunity entrepreneurship is an active choice to start a new enterprise based on the perception that an unexploited or underexploited profit opportunity exists. This essay uses a set theoretic perspective to construct configurations of institutions associated with various levels of opportunity entrepreneurship. It introduces a relatively new empirical method, Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (FSQCA), to the country-level entrepreneurship literature. FSQCA adds rigor to qualitative studies. Four distinct configurations associated with high levels of opportunity entrepreneurship and three distinct configurations associated with low opportunity entrepreneurship are identified. These findings indicate that the ways in which societies foster impactful entrepreneurship via the national business system and entrepreneurial culture exhibit equifinality and that institutions and culture can act as both complements and substitutes. I contribute to the literature by showing that institutions behave in combination, rather than independently, to produce opportunity entrepreneurship. My use of this method helps push the entrepreneurship literature towards thinking more configurationally about the role of institutions.

Essay III, in contrast, takes a multi-level approach. The main purpose of Essay III is to ascertain whether institutions have a more (or less) meaningful impact on lower income individuals than higher income individuals. In this essay, I use the institutional logics perspective to examine the degree to which market logics have sway over individuals. The institutional logics perspective holds that institutions' impact on individuals within a society varies based on characteristics and activities of those individuals such that some individuals will deviate from dominant institutional logics and others will not. Analysis is conducted to determine the extent to which variation in entrepreneurial intentions are explained by cross-level (individual and country-level data) variation. Two income levels (lower and higher income individuals) are contrasted. Findings indicate that individuals with higher incomes are better able to deviate from dominant institutional logics. My cross-level analyses of 49,013 individuals from 48 diverse countries supports the notion that institutions have a greater impact on low-income individuals with respect to entrepreneurial outcomes. The study contributes to a more nuanced understanding of embedded agency within the institutional logics perspective. It bridges the literatures on individual entrepreneurship and the institutional logics perspective. Furthermore, the study provides context and evidence on the impact of income on choice and economic well-being.

Overall, the findings of this dissertation make theoretical and empirical contributions to the literature on institutions and entrepreneurship, particularly the ways in which institutions impact the global poor. My more fine-grained application of institutional theory to the entrepreneurship literature is my primary theoretical contribution. While past research has explored and expounded upon societal institutions' impact on entrepreneurship, I explore contingencies in this relationship in all three essays. In Essay 1, I theorize about what organizations can do to help advance and build cognitive institutions. In Essay II, I explore how the relationship between institutions and a key entrepreneurial outcome is better viewed configurationally rather than as the independent effect of different institutions. In Essay III, I relax the established institutions-entrepreneurship relationship by examining how individual income plays a contingent role in that link.


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