University of Leicester
2014PUNTAIEREPhD.pdf (3.45 MB)
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Firm size inequality: industry dynamics, entrepreneurship and welfare

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posted on 2015-08-05, 14:58 authored by Elmar Puntaier
This thesis analyses the dynamics and determinants of the size distribution of firms and examines its implications on welfare. It draws on Schumacher‘s proposition of a 'balanced‘ size distribution of firms as a precondition for sustainable economic development, which conflicts with models predicting an increase in firm size inequality in the long run. For the said dynamism to be understood, the historical development from the First Industrial Revolution is reproduced and emerging patterns set in relation to the evolutionary approach to economic development. This leads to the central argument of this thesis, which is the need for a fair share of medium-sized firms in order to maximise innovative capacity, economic resilience, net job creation and sustainability. To identify the forces driving firm size inequality and the extent to which rebalancing is possible, this thesis consolidates the streams Gibrat‘s Law initiated. The industry-level analysis of the UK, Italy and Germany from 2001 to 2010 demonstrates that the size distribution of firms converges to a lognormal distribution. For technology-rich firms, firm size inequality is inversely U-shaped and the systemic erosion of diversity reduces the options to rebalance. In service industries, industry dynamics are more intense and cause a faster increase in firm size inequality. The resulting co-existence of small and large firms reduces spill-over effects and the ability to recover from macro-economic shocks, but these, paradoxically, increase firm size inequality. To delay the process of increasing firm size inequality, small and medium-sized firms need to engage with export activities and accumulate intangible assets. As the owner-managed firm commercialises on uncertainty and the large firm escapes from it, preserving the 'middle‘ is rewarded with a higher degree of innovative capacity and contributes to sustainable growth. There are also windows of opportunity where rebalancing is possible and from these openings new industries emerge.



Lightfoot, Geoff; Burridge, Mark

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Management

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


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