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Khadija van der Straaten

Inequality of opportunities in multinational enterprises


In both the public and academic discourse, the expansion in the cross-border activities of multinational enterprises (MNEs) is believed to have contributed to the contemporaneous increase in within-country inequality, though the underlying mechanisms by which they are interrelated are still ambiguous and certainly complex.

Studies on MNEs and inequality have commonly considered inequality in terms of income inequality. Inspired by work from development economics, as well as sociology, this dissertation takes a broader view of inequality, by considering a key antecedent of income inequality: inequality of opportunitiesInequality of opportunities refers to the disadvantages that individuals face in achieving their desired outcomes due to factors that are outside of their individual control.

In particular, in three empirical studies, it considers inequality of opportunities related to gender, parenthood, country of birth, and experience in terms of their consequences for the distribution of wages and working conditions in MNEs. The thesis unravels how these consequences are different depending on a number of factors, including the characteristics of the countries in which the MNE’s subsidiaries are located (the MNE host countries), the country of origin of the MNE (the MNE home country), and the institutional differences between these countries. The empirical studies in this dissertation rely on survey data of over 46,000 employees in 60 countries, across 21 industries. The findings suggest MNEs can mitigate their negative effects on inequality, as well as enhance positive ones.