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Does Product Market Competition Lead Firms to Decentralize?

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  • Nicholas Bloom
  • Raffaella Sadun
  • John Van Reenen

Abstract

There is a widespread sense that over the last two decades firms have been decentralizing decisions to employees further down the managerial hierarchy. Economists have developed a range of theories to account for delegation, but there is less empirical evidence, especially across countries. This has limited the ability to understand the phenomenon of decentralization. To address the empirical lacuna we have developed a research program to measure the internal organization of firms - including their decentralization decisions - across a large range of industries and countries. In this paper we investigate whether greater product market competition increases decentralization. For example, tougher competition may make local manager's information more valuable, as delays to decisions become more costly. Since globalization and liberalization have increased the competitiveness of product markets, one explanation for the trend towards decentralization could be increased competition. Of course there are a range of other factors that may also be at play, including human capital, information and communication technology, culture and industrial composition. To tackle these issues we collected detailed information on the internal organization of firms across nations. The few datasets that exist are either from a single industry or (at best) across many firms in a single country. We analyze data on almost 4,000 firms across twelve countries in Europe, North America and Asia. We find that competition does indeed seem to foster greater decentralization.
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Suggested Citation

  • Nicholas Bloom & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Does Product Market Competition Lead Firms to Decentralize?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 434-438, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:2:p:434-38
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.2.434
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2005. "On the Design of Hierarchies: Coordination versus Specialization," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 675-702, August.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Philippe Aghion & Claire Lelarge & John Van Reenen & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2007. "Technology, Information, and the Decentralization of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1759-1799.
    3. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1999. "Informal Authority in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 56-73, April.
    4. Philippe Aghion & Nick Bloom & Richard Blundell & Rachel Griffith & Peter Howitt, 2005. "Competition and Innovation: an Inverted-U Relationship," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 701-728.
    5. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376.
    6. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    7. Nicholas Bloom & Raffaella Sadun, 2012. "The Organization of Firms Across Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1663-1705.
    8. Jakub Kastl & David Martimort & Salvatore Piccolo, 2008. "Delegation and R&D Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Italy," 2008 Meeting Papers 1095, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2011. "Field Experiments with Firms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 63-82, Summer.
    10. Garicano, Luis & Hubbard, Thomas N, 2007. "Managerial Leverage Is Limited by the Extent of the Market: Hierarchies, Specialization, and the Utilization of Lawyers' Human Capital," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 1-43, February.
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    12. Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2007. "Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1351-1408.
    13. Massimo G. Colombo & Marco Delmastro, 2004. "Delegation of Authority In Business Organizations: An Empirical Test," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 53-80, March.
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    15. Guadalupe, Maria & Wulf, Julie, 2009. "The Flattening Firm and Product Market Competition," CEPR Discussion Papers 7253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms

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