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The Relationship Between Firm Size and Firm Growth in the U.S. Manufacturing Sector

  • Bronwyn H. Hall

This paper investigates the dynamics of firm growth in the U. S. manufacturing sector in the recent past. I use panel data on the publicly traded firms in the U. S. manufacturing sector: from a universe of approximately 1800 firms in 1976, I am able to follow most of them for at least three years, and over half of them from 1972 until 1983. I consider several problems, both econometric and substantive, which exist in analyzing this kind of data: the choice of size measure, the role of measurement error, and the effect of selection (attrition) on estimates obtained from this sample. Using time series methods, suitably modified for panel data (where the number of time periods per observational unit is small), I analyze the behavior of employment over time and find that most of the change in employment in any given year is permanent in the sense that there is no tendency to return to the previous level. Year-to-year growth rates are largely uncorrelated and there is almost no role for measurement error. I find that Gibrat's Law is weakly rejected for the smaller firms in my sample and accepted for the larger firms; Other measures of size produce essentially the same results. Correction for attrition from the sample changes the results somewhat: I use a simple model in which firms leave the sample because they are small and/or undervalued (since many exits are acquisitions) and find that Tobin's Q, the raio of market valuation to the value of the underlying assets of the firm, is a much better predictor of exit probability than size alone (firms with low Q are more likely to exit the sample). When I use this estimate of the probability of exit to control for selection bias, Gibrat's Law is weakly rejected for firms of all sizes and there are significant positive effects on firm growth from both investment in physical capital and R&D expenditures, with R&D having a somewhat higher net effect.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1965.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1965.

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Date of creation: Jun 1986
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Publication status: published as Hall, Bronwyn H. "The Relationship Between Firm Size and Firm Growth in the U. S. Manufacturing Sector," Journal of Industrial Economics, Vol. XXXV, No.4, June 1987, pp. 583-606.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1965
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  1. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 1978. "On the Size Distribution of Business Firms," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 508-523, Autumn.
  2. William C. Brainard & John B. Shoven & Laurence Weiss, 1980. "The Financial Valuation of the Return to Capital," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 11(2), pages 453-512.
  3. John Bound & Clint Cummins & Zvi Griliches & Bronwyn H. Hall & Adam B. Jaffe, 1984. "Who Does R&D and Who Patents?," NBER Chapters, in: R&D, Patents, and Productivity, pages 21-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Zvi Griliches, 1984. "Market Value, R&D, and Patents," NBER Chapters, in: R&D, Patents, and Productivity, pages 249-252 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Nelson, Forrest D., 1977. "Censored regression models with unobserved, stochastic censoring thresholds," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 309-327, November.
  6. Stephen Hymer & Peter Pashigian, 1962. "Firm Size and Rate of Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 556.
  7. Lee, Lung-Fei & Maddala, G S, 1985. "The Common Structure of Tests for Selectivity Bias, Serial Correlation, Heteroscedaticity, and Non-normality in the Tobit Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(1), pages 1-20, February.
  8. Breusch, T S & Pagan, A R, 1979. "A Simple Test for Heteroscedasticity and Random Coefficient Variation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1287-94, September.
  9. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
  10. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
  11. Bronwyn H. Hall & Clint Cumminq & Elizabeth S. Laderman & Joy Mundy, 1988. "The R&D Master File Documentation," NBER Technical Working Papers 0072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Thomas E. MaCurdy, 1981. "Asymptotic Properties of Quasi-Maximum Likelihood Estimators and Test Statistics," NBER Technical Working Papers 0014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Amemiya, Takeshi, 1984. "Tobit models: A survey," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 3-61.
  14. Brainard, William C. & Shoven, John B., 1980. "The financial valuation of the return to capital," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue 4, pages 43-104.
  15. Bronwyn H. Hall & Zvi Griliches & Jerry A. Hausman, 1984. "Patents and R&D: Is There A Lag?," NBER Working Papers 1454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Olsen, Randall J, 1980. "A Least Squares Correction for Selectivity Bias," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(7), pages 1815-20, November.
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