June 2020

IZA DP No. 13414: The Effects of Non-Compete Agreements on Different Types of Self-Employment: Evidence from Massachusetts and Utah

Ege Can, Frank M. Fossen

revised version published as 'The Enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements and Different Types of Entrepreneurship: Evidence from Utah and Massachusetts' in: Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, 2022, 11 (2/3), 223-252

The economic effects of non-compete agreements have received increasing attention from academics and policymakers. This paper investigates how non-compete policies affect different types of self-employment. We exploit policy reforms in Utah and Massachusetts in 2016 and 2018, which decreased the enforceability of non-compete covenants, as quasi-experiments. We separate self-employment into self-employment with incorporated businesses (as a proxy for entrepreneurship) and self-employment with unincorporated businesses. Using representative individual-level data from the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey, we estimate the probability of being self-employed with these different types of businesses, as well as entry into self-employment, and how these probabilities changed due to the reforms. Our findings show that the decrease in the enforceability of non-compete agreements in the two states resulted in a higher rate of incorporated self-employment in these states. In contrast, there was no sizable effect on the rate of unincorporated self-employment. Our results imply that states can promote entrepreneurial activity by reducing the enforceability of non-compete agreements.