March 2020

IZA DP No. 13033: Does Working at a Start-Up Pay Off?

Using representative linked employer-employee data for Germany, this paper analyzes short- and long-run differences in labor market performance of workers joining startups instead of incumbent firms. Applying entropy balancing and following individuals over ten years, we find huge and long-lasting drawbacks from entering a start-up in terms of wages, yearly income, and (un)employment. These disadvantages hold for all groups of workers and types of start-ups analyzed. Although our analysis of different subsequent career paths highlights important heterogeneities, it does not reveal any strategy through which workers joining start-ups can catch up with the income of similar workers entering incumbent firms.