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Top Team Demographics, Innovation and Business Performance: Findings from English Firms and Cities 2008-9

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  • Max Nathan

Abstract

High levels of net migration to the UK have contributed to growing cultural diversity, and researchers are turning their attention to the long-term effects of diversity on productivity. Yet little is known about these issues. This paper asks: what are the links between the composition of firms' top teams and business performance? What role do ethnic diversity and co-ethnic networks play? And do cities amplify or dampen these channels? I explore using a rich dataset of over 6,000 English firms. Owners, partners and directors set firms' strategic direction. Top team demography might generate production externalities through diversity (a wider range of ideas/ experiences, helping problem solving) and/or 'sameness' (via specialist knowledge or better access to international markets). These channels may be balanced by internal downsides (lower trust) and external barriers (discrimination), so that overall effects on business performance are unclear. In addition, urban locations (particularly big cities) may amplify any demographics-performance effects. I create a repeat cross-section of firms from the RDA National Business Survey. I construct measures of diversity and sameness across ethnicity and gender 'bases', alongside information on revenues, product and process innovation. I then regress these measures of business performance on top team demographics, plus firm level controls, area, year and detailed industry fixed effects. My results suggest a non-linear link between diversity and business performance, which is net positive for process innovation and net negative for turnover. Further tests on diverse and minority/female-headed firms find positive links for diverse top teams, negative for minority and female-only top teams. This implies that while diversity has internal and external benefits, penalties from being 'too diverse' probably result from external constraints. Further tests for intervening effects of capital cities, metropolitan hierarchies and urban form find some evidence of amplifying and dampening effects - which are generally stronger in London and larger cities.

Suggested Citation

  • Max Nathan, 2013. "Top Team Demographics, Innovation and Business Performance: Findings from English Firms and Cities 2008-9," SERC Discussion Papers 0129, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sercdp:0129
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nathan, Max, 2013. "The Wider Economic Impacts of High-Skilled Migrants: A Survey of the Literature," IZA Discussion Papers 7653, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Max Nathan, 2014. "The wider economic impacts of high-skilled migrants: a survey of the literature for receiving countries," IZA Journal of Migration, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-20, December.
    3. Neil Lee, 2013. "Cultural Diversity, Cities and Innovation: firm Effects or City Effects?," SERC Discussion Papers 0144, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    4. Swarnodeep Homroy & Kwok Tong Soo, 2014. "The impact of diversity on group and individual performance," Working Papers 65528509, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cities; innovation; entrepreneurship; cultural diversity; migration; gender;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm
    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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