Firm Dynamics

Working Papers

Abstract: We study the number, size, and location of a firm's plants. The firm's decision balances the benefit of delivering goods and services to customers using multiple plants with the cost of setting up and managing these plants, and the potential for cannibalization that arises as their number increases. Modeling the decisions of heterogeneous firms in an economy with a vast number of widely distinct locations is complex because it involves a large combinatorial problem. Using insights from discrete geometry, we study a tractable limit case of this problem in which these forces operate at a local level. Our analysis delivers clear predictions on sorting across space. Productive firms place more plants in dense locations that exhibit high rents compared with less productive firms, and place fewer plants in markets with low density and low rents. Controlling for the number of plants, productive firms also operate larger plants than those operated by less productive firms in locations where both are present. We present evidence consistent with these and several other predictions using U.S. establishment-level panel data.

Journal Publications

Abstract: The U.S. has experienced an industrial revolution in services. Firms in service industries, those where output has to be supplied locally, increasingly operate in more markets. Employment, sales, and spending on fixed costs such as R&D and managerial employment have increased rapidly in these industries. These changes have favored top firms the most and have led to increasing national concentration in service industries. Top firms in service industries have grown entirely by expanding into new local markets that are predominantly small and mid-sized U.S. cities. Market concentration at the local level has decreased in all U.S. cities but by significantly more in cities that were initially small. These facts are consistent with the availability of a new menu of fixed-cost-intensive technologies in service sectors that enable adopters to produce at lower marginal costs in any markets. The entry of top service firms into new local markets has led to substantial unmeasured productivity growth, particularly in small markets.

Replication Files

Abstract: Using employer-employee matched and firm production quantity and input data for Portuguese firms, we study the endogenous response of productivity to firm reorganizations as measured by changes in the number of management layers. We show that, as a result of an exogenous demand or productivity shock that makes the firm reorganize and add a management layer, quantity-based productivity increases by about 6%, while revenue-based productivity drops by around 3%. Such a reorganization makes the firm more productive but also increases the quantity produced to an extent that lowers the price charged by the firm and, as a result, its revenue-based productivity as well.

Replication Files

Abstract: We study the internal organization of French manufacturing firms. We divide the employees of each firm into “layers” using occupational categories. Layers are hierarchical in that the typical worker in a higher layer earns more, and the typical firm occupies less of them. The probability of adding/dropping a layer is positively/negatively correlated with value added. Reorganization, through changes in layers, is essential to understanding how firms grow. firms that expand substantially add layers and pay lower average wages in all preexisting layers. In contrast, firms that expand little and do not reorganize pay higher average wages in all preexisting layers.

Online Appendix

Replication Files

Abstract: We document several empirical regularities regarding the evolution of urban structure in the largest U.S. metropolitan areas over the period 1980–90. These regularities relate to changes in resident population, employment, occupations, as well as the number and size of establishments in different sections of the metropolitan area. We then propose a theory of urban structure that emphasizes the location and internal structure decisions of firms. In particular, firms can decide to locate their headquarters and operation plants in different regions of the city. Given that cities experienced positive population growth throughout the 1980s, we show that firm fragmentation produces the diverse set of facts documented in the article.

Abstract: This paper presents a theory of establishment size dynamics based on the accumulation of industry-specific human capital that simultaneously rationalizes the economy-wide facts on establishment growth rates, exit rates, and size distributions. The theory predicts that establishment growth and net exit rates should decline faster with size, and that the establishment size distribution should have thinner tails, in sectors that use specific human capital less intensively. We establish that there is substantial cross-sector heterogeneity in US establishment size dynamics and distributions, which is well explained by relative factor intensities.

Replication Files

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