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What do we know about the capital structure of privately held firms? Evidence from the Surveys of Small Business Finance

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  • Cole, Rebel

Abstract

The capital-structure decision is one of the most fundamental issues in corporate finance. Numerous studies have been conducted to test the two major competing theories of capital structure (Trade-Off Theory and Pecking-Order Theory), yet none of these studies has analyzed the capital-structure decisions of small, privately held U.S. firms, which constitute the vast majority of all U.S. business enterprises. In this study, we provide the first evidence on this important issue, utilizing data from four nationally representative surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve Board: the 1987, 1993, 1998 and 2003 Surveys of Small Business Finances (SSBF). We find that firm leverage as measured by the ratios of total loans to total assets and total liabilities to total assets is negatively related to firm size, age, profitability, liquidity and credit quality and is positively related to firm tangibility and limited liability. In addition, we find that firm leverage is an increasing function of both the number of banks and the number of non-bank financial institutions with which the firm has business relationships. Finally, we find no significant variations in firm leverage by race or ethnicity, but some evidence that femaleowned firms use less leverage. In general, these results are broadly supportive of the Pecking- Order Theory and inconsistent with the Trade-Off Theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Cole, Rebel, 2008. "What do we know about the capital structure of privately held firms? Evidence from the Surveys of Small Business Finance," MPRA Paper 8086, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8086
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Diana Hechavarría & Charles Matthews & Paul Reynolds, 2016. "Does start-up financing influence start-up speed? Evidence from the panel study of entrepreneurial dynamics," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 137-167, January.
    2. Fryges, Helmut & Kohn, Karsten & Ullrich, Katrin, 2011. "The Interdependence of R&D Activity and Debt Financing of Young Firms," IZA Discussion Papers 6217, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Judge, Amrit & Korzhenitskaya, Anna, 2012. "Credit market conditions and the impact of access to the public debt market on corporate leverage," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 28-63.
    4. Banerjee, Suman & Masulis, Ronald & Pal, Sarmistha, 2016. "Regulation and Firm Value: Curious Case of Transparency and Disclosure Laws in Russia," IZA Discussion Papers 9890, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Khaled Ba-Abbad & Nurwati Ashikkin Ahmad-Zaluki, 2012. "The Determinants of Capital Structure of Qatari Listed Companies," International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences, Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences, vol. 2(2), pages 93-108, April.
    6. Morar Triandafil, Cristina & Poanta, Dorina, 2011. "Central and East European Corporate Finance: Between Commonality and Heterogeneity," Journal for Economic Forecasting, Institute for Economic Forecasting, vol. 0(3), pages 132-161, September.
    7. Colombatto, Enrico & Melnik, Arie & Monticone, Chiara, "undated". "Relationships and the availability of credit to New Small Firms," Working Papers WP2011/11, University of Haifa, Department of Economics, revised 23 Oct 2011.
    8. Arturo Haro-de-Rosario & María del Carmen Caba-Pérez & Leonardo Cazorla-Papis, 2016. "The impact of venture capital on investee companies: evidence from Spain," Review of Managerial Science, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 577-600, July.
    9. Van Campenhout, Geert & Van Caneghem, Tom, 2009. "Information Availability, Information Quality and the Financial Structure of Belgian SME's," Working Papers 2009/27, Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, Faculteit Economie en Management.
    10. Julia Hirsch & Uwe Walz, 2009. "Financing Decisions Along a Firm’s Life Cycle: Debt as a Commitment Device," Working Papers 0409, Universidad Iberoamericana, Department of Economics.
    11. Dong Xiang & Andrew C. Worthington & Helen Higgs, 2011. "Firm-level determinants and impacts of finance-seeking behaviour and outcomes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Australia," Discussion Papers in Finance finance:201115, Griffith University, Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics.
    12. Diana M. Hechavarría & Charles H. Matthews & Paul D. Reynolds, 2016. "Does start-up financing influence start-up speed? Evidence from the panel study of entrepreneurial dynamics," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 137-167, January.
    13. Shujun Ding & Zhenyu Wu, 2014. "Family Ownership and Corporate Misconduct in U.S. Small Firms," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 123(2), pages 183-195, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    capital structure; pecking-order theory; small business; trade-off theory; SSBF;

    JEL classification:

    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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