Faculty & Research

Christopher B. Yenkey

Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy and John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow

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5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Chris Yenkey joined Chicago Booth in 2011 as Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy. Professor Yenkey’s primary research interest is in extending sociological theories of social diversity, segregation, and inter-group trust into the analysis of market development. This line of work is exemplified by his work on multiple aspects of investor participation in Kenya’s frontier stock market, the Nairobi Securities Exchange. Here, he analyzes how ethnic group boundaries influence the transmission of market information through a diverse society and how coethnicity paradoxically increases investors’ vulnerability to fraud without reducing their trust in the market. The causes and consequences of fraud are the focus of an additional line of research, where he studies the social influences that lead actors to engage in corrupt practices as well as how organizations respond to corrupt acts.

Professor Yenkey’s dissertation research on the social foundations of market construction in East Africa received several awards in 2011, including the William H. Newman Best Dissertation Paper Award from the Academy of Management, the Louis R. Pondy Best Paper Award from the Organization and Management Theory Division of the AOM, and the Ronald S. Burt Outstanding Paper Award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Economic Sociology.

While earning his PhD in Sociology at Cornell University, Yenkey served as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Economic Affairs in Nairobi, Kenya. More recently, he was Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Economy and Society at Cornell University from 2010-11. Prior to his graduate studies, Yenkey received a BA in Economics from the University of Texas-Austin in 2001 and served as a Research Associate in the Department of Economic Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City from 2001-03.

When he’s not studying the social construction of markets, Chris prefers to be with his family, exercising outside, or some combination of the two.


2015 - 2016 Course Schedule

Number Name Quarter
39002 Strategic Leadership 2016 (Spring)
39600 Workshop in Organizations and Markets 2015 (Fall)

To view my working papers, please visit SSRN.

Yenkey, Christopher B. 2015. "Mobilizing a Market: Ethnic Segmentation and Investor Recruitment into the Nairobi Securities Exchange." Administrative Science Quarterly, 60(4): 561-595. 

This paper studies how actors from diverse and competing social groups can come to identify as members of a common market rather than agents of their discrete social group. The goals of the paper are to identify the mechanisms driving social segmentation in a nascent market and strategies for integrating disparate groups. The empirical context is the recruitment of domestic investors into Kenya’s nascent stock market, a setting characterized by weak formal institutions and high levels of inter-ethnic distrust. Rather than exhibit a blanket preference for homophilous peers, potential investors increasingly attend to prior performance experiences of coethnics where local exposure to corrupt financial organizations is higher and where the market is increasingly identified with distrusted political rivals. Inter-ethnic residential and religious integration moderate this pattern of distrust, but results suggest that the most effective strategy to achieve inter-ethnic integration is through the use of national rather than ethnic language advertising campaigns to reframe the market as a common social identity. Implications of these findings for organization theory, economic development, and the sociological study of markets are discussed.

With Palmer, Donald. 2015. "Drugs, Sweat, and Gears: An Organizational Analysis of Performance Enhancing Drug Use in the 2010 Tour de France," Social Forces94 (2): 891-922.

This paper seeks a more comprehensive explanation of wrongdoing in organizations by theorizing two underexplored causes of wrongdoing related to an organizational participant's embeddedness in formal organizational structures and informal peer relationships: the criticality of a person's role in their organization's division of labor, and their social ties to deviant peers within their organization and industry who vary with respect to their experience with social control agents. We investigate how these factors influenced wrongdoing in the context of professional cyclists' use of banned performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in advance of the 2010 Tour de France. This empirical setting provides two advantages: it permits evaluation of a wider range of potential determinants of wrongdoing than is conventionally possible, and it allows for the use of a measure of wrongdoing that is not subject to the type of bias that plagues most previously used indicators. We find substantial support for our prediction that actors who perform critical organizational roles are more likely to engage in wrongdoing. Further, we find that while undifferentiated social ties to known wrongdoers did not increase the likelihood of wrongdoing, ties to unpunished offenders increased the probability of wrongdoing and ties to severely punished offenders decreased it. These effects were robust to consideration of other known causes of wrongdoing in organizations: weak governance regimes and permissive cultural contexts, performance strain, and individual propensities to engage in wrongdoing.

For a listing of research publications please visit ’s university library listing page.

REVISION: Fraud and Market Participation: Social Similarity as a Moderator of Organizational Misconduct
Date Posted: Oct  20, 2015
This paper extends research on organizational stigma to explain individual variation in reactions to organizational misconduct and how misconduct affects participation at the market level. The theoretical focus is the moderating effect of social similarity between victimized investors and a corrupt agent on future market participation. The empirical setting is the ethnically diverse and contentious population of investors in Kenya’s Nairobi Securities Exchange, whose largest stockbroker was expelled from the market in 2008 after defrauding one-quarter of its 100,000 clients. NSE databases provide a complete record of ethnic identities and market transactions for both victimized and non-victimized investors and their chosen intermediaries. Theory and analysis focus on how coethnic versus rival clients of the corrupt broker differs in choice of new intermediaries and likelihood of investing post-fraud. Coethnic clients of the corrupt broker attribute the fraud to the professional ...

REVISION: Is Kenya's Digital Revolution Informalising Financial Inclusion?
Date Posted: Sep  26, 2015
This paper uses FinAccess data to provide an alternative accounting of mobile money’s contribution to formal financial inclusion and explores how this powerful new financial tool enables informal as well as formal financial action. The paper argues that the access strand framework employed in Kenya’s financial inclusion reporting places too much emphasis on a supply-side perspective which concentrates on institutional formality, rather than the underlying behaviours and functions which financial products enable. In the development lexicon, it is the latter which are of interest, rather than the former. Financial sector development initiatives rest on the understanding that financial tools can improve the capacity individuals and institutions to manage liquidity, invest productively, pool risk effectively and transact efficiently, with consequent impacts on livelihoods and growth. For households (and to an extent businesses) these benefits can be delivered through informal as well as ...

REVISION: Embedded in Fraud: Social Capital as an Exploitable Resource
Date Posted: Sep  26, 2015
This paper demonstrates that trust derived from group-based social capital is an exploitable resource available to corrupt agents for enacting fraud. In the context of a large, impersonal market, principals are more likely to choose an agent based on shared social identity, especially when they live in environments where their social group is threatened. But in contrast to most social scientific work on group-based trust, a corrupt agent is also more likely to victimize socially similar clients, especially when clients live in the threatening environments that stimulate their use of social capital initially. Further analysis supports the conclusion that victims belonging to the corrupt agent’s social group are less likely to monitor and enforce trustworthy behavior. The empirical setting is the ethnically diverse and contentious population of investors in Kenya’s emerging stock market, where the country’s largest stockbroker was found to have defrauded more than 20,000 investors in a ...

REVISION: Mobilizing a Market: Ethnic Segregation and New Investor Recruitment into Kenya's Nairobi Securities Exchange
Date Posted: Aug  05, 2015
This study examines how actors from diverse and competing social groups can come to identify as members of a common market rather than as agents of their discrete social groups. Using data on new-investor recruitment into Kenya’s nascent capital market, the Nairobi Securities Exchange, from 2005 through 2008, I identified mechanisms driving social segmentation as well as integration of disparate groups. The empirical context is characterized by weak formal institutions and high levels of inter-ethnic distrust, a novel but productive setting for studying how potential adopters use social identities to resolve uncertainty around expected gains of participating in a new market. Results show that instead of exhibiting blanket influence by homophilous peers, potential investors were positively influenced by profits earned by proximate coethnic peers primarily when their own exposure to corrupt financial organizations was higher but were negatively influenced by the profits of ethnic ...

REVISION: The Financialization of Everyday Life: Mobile Money and (In)Formal Activity in a Developing Context
Date Posted: Feb  12, 2015
This paper contributes to the literature on the financialization of everyday life by studying the relationship between mobile money products and financialized practices in Kenya. We first outline a theoretical approach to studying financialization in developing countries that is consistent with research in developed countries but accommodates the differing motivations and operationalizations of financialized practices in the Global South. In part, this is accomplished by drawing explicit parallels to research on formal financial sector inclusion in developing countries. We extend research by considering how mobile money products may facilitate shifts toward financialized behaviors for individuals in the informal sector. Using nationally representative cross-sectional survey data measuring all financial products and practices used by 13,000 Kenyans, we find that mobile money use is positively related to increased inclusion in the formal financial sector, and formal sector inclusion is ...

New: Speculation as a Learned Behavior? Adaptive Rationality Among New Investors and the Evolution of a Nascent Market
Date Posted: Feb  11, 2015
This inductive study examines the extent to which small, newly recruited investors learn to mimic the trading behaviors of experienced institutional investors in an emerging capital market characterized by policies that incentivize speculative trading in IPO shares. Theoretically, I explore how small, inexperienced investors learn to trade shares more effectively and how the ordering and attributes of listing firms facilitate or impede this learning process. Empirically, I model rates of speculative IPO trading for investors based on portfolio value, registration type (individual vs. company), and previous experience in the Kenyan IPO market and chart the relative rates of speculative trading between investor groups over the course of successive IPOs. Analysis of individual data for 1.4 million domestic investors across six consecutive IPOs in Kenya’s nascent stock market from 2006 to 2008 suggests that low portfolio value individual investors are initially much less likely than ...

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