IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The causal effect of board size in the performance of small and medium-sized firms


  • Bennedsen, Morten
  • Kongsted, Hans Christian
  • Nielsen, Kasper Meisner


Empirical studies of large publicly traded firms have shown a robust negative relationship between board size and firm performance. The evidence on small and medium-sized firms is less clear; we show that existing work has been incomplete in analyzing the causal relationship due to weak identification strategies. Using a rich data set of almost 7000 closely held corporations we provide a causal analysis of board size effects on firm performance: We use a novel instrument given by the number of children of the chief executive officer (CEO) of the firms. First, we find a strong positive correlation between family size and board size and show this correlation to be driven by firms where the CEO's relatives serve on the board. Second, we find empirical evidence of a small adverse board size effect driven by the minority of small and medium-sized firms that are characterized by having comparatively large boards of six or more members.

Suggested Citation

  • Bennedsen, Morten & Kongsted, Hans Christian & Nielsen, Kasper Meisner, 2008. "The causal effect of board size in the performance of small and medium-sized firms," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1098-1109, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jbfina:v:32:y:2008:i:6:p:1098-1109

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Claessens, Stijn & Fan, Joseph P.H. & Lang, Larry H.P., 2006. "The benefits and costs of group affiliation: Evidence from East Asia," Emerging Markets Review, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 1-26, March.
    2. Bennedsen, Morten, 2002. "Why do firms have boards?," Working Papers 03-2002, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
    3. Geoffrey C. Kiel & Gavin J. Nicholson, 2003. "Board Composition and Corporate Performance: how the Australian experience informs contrasting theories of corporate governance," Corporate Governance: An International Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 189-205, July.
    4. Stefan Beiner & Wolfgang Drobetz & Frank Schmid & Heinz Zimmermann, 2004. "Is Board Size an Independent Corporate Governance Mechanism?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 327-356, August.
    5. Michael C. Jensen, 2010. "The Modern Industrial Revolution, Exit, and the Failure of Internal Control Systems," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 22(1), pages 43-58.
    6. de Jong, A. & DeJong, D.V. & Mertens, G.M.H. & Wasley, C., 2000. "The Role of Self-Regulation in Corporate Governance : Evidence from the Netherlands," Discussion Paper 2000-59, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    7. Volpin, Paolo F., 2002. "Governance with poor investor protection: evidence from top executive turnover in Italy," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 61-90, April.
    8. repec:hrv:faseco:30747162 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Morck, Randall & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1988. "Management ownership and market valuation : An empirical analysis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 293-315, January.
    10. Morck, Randall & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1988. "Management ownership and market valuation," Scholarly Articles 29407535, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    11. Faccio, Mara & Lang, Larry H. P., 2002. "The ultimate ownership of Western European corporations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 365-395, September.
    12. Yermack, David, 1996. "Higher market valuation of companies with a small board of directors," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 185-211, February.
    13. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
    14. Claudio Loderer & Urs Peyer, 2002. "Board Overlap, Seat Accumulation and Share Prices," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 8(2), pages 165-192.
    15. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-De-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 1999. "Corporate Ownership Around the World," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(2), pages 471-517, April.
    16. Claessens, Stijn & Djankov, Simeon & Lang, Larry H. P., 2000. "The separation of ownership and control in East Asian Corporations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1-2), pages 81-112.
    17. Martin Conyon & Simon Peck, 1998. "Board size and corporate performance: evidence from European countries," The European Journal of Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(3), pages 291-304.
    18. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Michael S. Weisbach, 2003. "Boards of directors as an endogenously determined institution: a survey of the economic literature," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Apr, pages 7-26.
    19. Demsetz, Harold & Lehn, Kenneth, 1985. "The Structure of Corporate Ownership: Causes and Consequences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1155-1177, December.
    20. Morten Bennedsen & Kasper Meisner Nielsen & Francisco Perez-Gonzalez & Daniel Wolfenzon, 2007. "Inside the Family Firm: The Role of Families in Succession Decisions and Performance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 647-691.
    21. Renée B. Adams & Hamid Mehran, 2008. "Corporate performance, board structure, and their determinants in the banking industry," Staff Reports 330, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jbfina:v:32:y:2008:i:6:p:1098-1109. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.