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Legal Form, Growth and Exit of West German Firms - Empirical Results for Manufacturing, Construction, Trade and Service Industries


  • Harhoff, Dietmar
  • Stahl, Konrad
  • Woywode, Michael


In this paper we discuss determinants of firm survival and growth in Germany within its pre-1989 boundaries. We argue that the legal form adopted by a firm is an important indicator of the riskiness of projects undertaken, and that firms under limited liability should be characterized by higher than average insolvency and employment growth rates. We test these predictions by considering the survival chances and employment growth rates of various types of enterprises in a sample of approximately 11,000 West German firms from all major sectors of the German economy. We distinguish between voluntary liquidation without losses to creditors, and bankruptcy as forced liquidation. We demonstrate that firms under limited liability are characterized by higher growth and higher insolvency rates than comparable firms under full liability. Surprisingly, the likelihood of insolvencies is a non-monotonic function of firm size while the likelihood of voluntary liquidation decreases monotonically. Firms whose owners are approaching retirement age are characterized by relatively high hazards of voluntary liquidation, while the propensity to insolvency is not affected by the owner’s age. The basic empirical results hold in pooled samples as well as in estimates at the level of the one-digit industries of manufacturing, construction, trade, and services.

Suggested Citation

  • Harhoff, Dietmar & Stahl, Konrad & Woywode, Michael, 1996. "Legal Form, Growth and Exit of West German Firms - Empirical Results for Manufacturing, Construction, Trade and Service Industries," CEPR Discussion Papers 1401, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:1401

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    3. José Mata & Pedro Portugal, 2000. "Closure and divestiture by foreign entrants: the impact of entry and post‐entry strategies," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(5), pages 549-562, May.
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    9. Byeongyong Paul Choi, 2010. "The U.S. Property and Liability Insurance Industry: Firm Growth, Size, and Age," Risk Management and Insurance Review, American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 13(2), pages 207-224, September.
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    11. Bozhidar Hadzhiev & Valentina Nikolova-Alexieva & Iva T. Bachvarova, 2018. "Creating the Conditions for Broadband Business Entrepreneurship to Ensure Lasting Success for the Bulgarian Society," Economic Studies journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 5, pages 92-105.

    More about this item


    Employment Growth; Exit; Insolvency; Limited Liability; Liquidation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • K20 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - General
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms


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