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Small is Beautiful but Size Matters: The Asymmetric Impact of Uncertainty and Sunk Costs on Small and Large Businesses

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  • Ghosal, Vivek

Abstract

Against the backdrop of the theories developed in the real options and financing constraints literatures, this paper examines the impact of profit uncertainty and sunk costs on firms’ entry and exit decisions. For our empirical analysis, we compile an extensive dataset containing information on 267 U.S. manufacturing industries over a 30-year period containing industry-specific information on the number of firms and establishments, the size distribution of establishments, measures of sunk capital costs and profit uncertainty, among others. Our dynamic panel data estimates show that greater uncertainty about profits, especially in conjunction with higher sunk costs, results in (1) a marked decrease in the number of small firms and establishments; (2) a less skewed size distribution of firms and establishments; and (3) a marginal increase in industry output concentration. In sharp contrast, large establishments seem virtually unaffected. The results point to uncertainty in conjunction with sunk costs fundamentally affecting firms’ decision-making and altering the structure of industries by putting smaller businesses at a disadvantage.

Suggested Citation

  • Ghosal, Vivek, 2007. "Small is Beautiful but Size Matters: The Asymmetric Impact of Uncertainty and Sunk Costs on Small and Large Businesses," MPRA Paper 5461, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:5461
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    1. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:7:p:1255-1271 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ioannis Kessides & Li Tang, 2010. "Sunk Costs, Market Contestability, and the Size Distribution of Firms," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 37(3), pages 215-236, November.
    3. Piccolo, Salvatore, 2011. "A note on free entry under uncertainty: The role of asymmetric information," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 111(3), pages 256-259, June.
    4. Karlyn Mitchell & Douglas Pearce, 2011. "Lending technologies, lending specialization, and minority access to small-business loans," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 277-304, October.
    5. Vivek Ghosal, 2009. "Business Strategy and Firm Reorganization under Changing Market Conditions," CESifo Working Paper Series 2673, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Uncertainty; sunk costs; real options; financing constraints; decision-making; small businesses;

    JEL classification:

    • L40 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - General
    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General

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