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Does Product Market Competition Lead Firms to Decentralize?

  • Nicholas Bloom
  • Raffaella Sadun
  • John Van Reenen

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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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 100 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 434-38

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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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  1. Howitt, Peter & Griffith, Rachel & Aghion, Philippe & Blundell, Richard & Bloom, Nick, 2005. "Competition and Innovation: An Inverted-U Relationship," Scholarly Articles 4481507, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Nick Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2006. "Measuring and explaining management practices across firms and countries," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 733, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & Philippe Aghion & Claire Lelarge & John Van Reenen & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2006. "Technology, Information and the Decentralization of the Firm," NBER Working Papers 12206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Caroli, Eve & Van Reenen, John, 1999. "Skill biased organizational change? Evidence from a panel of British and French establishments," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9917, CEPREMAP.
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  8. Garicano, Luis & Hubbard, Thomas, 2005. "Managerial Leverage is Limited By the Extent of the Market: Hierarchies, Specialization and the Utilization of Lawyers' Human Capital," CEPR Discussion Papers 4924, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Canice Prendergast, 2002. "The Tenuous Trade-off between Risk and Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 1071-1102, October.
  10. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Guadalupe, Maria & Wulf, Julie, 2009. "The Flattening Firm and Product Market Competition," CEPR Discussion Papers 7253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. 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, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376, February.
  13. 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.
  14. 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, 03.
  15. 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.
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