Returns to Scale in Small and Large U.S. Manufacturing Establishments
The objective of this study is to assess the possibility of differences in the production technologies between large and small establishments in five selected 4-digit SIC manufacturing industries. We particularly focus on estimating returns to scale and then make interferences regarding the efficiency of small businesses relative to large businesses. Using cross-section data for two census years, 1977 and 1982, we estimate a transcendental logarithmic (translog) production model that provides direct estimates of economies of scale parameters for both small and large establishments. Our primary findings are: (i) there are significant differences in the production technologies between small and large establishments; and (ii) based on the scale parameter estimates, small establishments appear to be as efficient as large establishments under normal economic conditions, suggesting that large size is not a necessary condition for efficient production. However, small establishments seem to be unable to maintain constant returns to scale production during economic recession such as that in 1982.
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