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Is Bigger Always Better ? The Effect of Size on Defaults


  • Giulio Bottazzi
  • Federico Tamagni


Exploiting a large database of Italian manufacturing firms we investigate the relationships between default rate and firm size. Default events, defined as conditions of actual or likely insolvency, are a signal of deep business troubles. They are unanticipated, costly and dangerous for the firm as well as for the economy, and should be in principle avoided. Our evidence, based on data provided by a large Italian banking group, reveals that the default probability of firms increases with their size. This finding contrasts with typical results on exit events based on business registries data, and suggests to revise the common wisdom that sees the core of the industry as a safe place and its members as most valuable economic assets.

Suggested Citation

  • Giulio Bottazzi & Federico Tamagni, 2010. "Is Bigger Always Better ? The Effect of Size on Defaults," LEM Papers Series 2010/07, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:ssa:lemwps:2010/07

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mata, Jose & Portugal, Pedro, 1994. "Life Duration of New Firms," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(3), pages 227-245, September.
    2. Giulio Bottazzi & Marco Grazzi & Angelo Secchi & Federico Tamagni, 2011. "Financial and economic determinants of firm default," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 373-406, August.
    3. Gilson, Stuart C, 1997. " Transactions Costs and Capital Structure Choice: Evidence from Financially Distressed Firms," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 161-196, March.
    4. Giulio Bottazzi & Angelo Secchi & Federico Tamagni, 2008. "Productivity, profitability and financial performance," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(4), pages 711-751, August.
    5. Richard Disney & Jonathan Haskel & Ylva Heden, 2003. "Entry, Exit and Establishment Survival in UK Manufacturing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 91-112, March.
    6. Shrieves, Ronald E. & Stevens, Donald L., 1979. "Bankruptcy Avoidance as a Motive For Merger," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(03), pages 501-515, September.
    7. Silviano Esteve-Pérez & Amparo Sanchis-Llopis & Juan Sanchis-Llopis, 2010. "A competing risks analysis of firms’ exit," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 38(2), pages 281-304, April.
    8. Agarwal, Rajshree & Gort, Michael, 1996. "The Evolution of Markets and Entry, Exit and Survival of Firms," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(3), pages 489-498, August.
    9. Grunert, Jens & Norden, Lars & Weber, Martin, 2005. "The role of non-financial factors in internal credit ratings," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 509-531, February.
    10. Honjo, Yuji, 2000. "Business failure of new firms: an empirical analysis using a multiplicative hazards model," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 557-574, May.
    11. Agarwal, Rajshree & Audretsch, David B, 2001. "Does Entry Size Matter? The Impact of the Life Cycle and Technology on Firm Survival," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 21-43, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giulio Bottazzi & Marco Grazzi & Angelo Secchi & Federico Tamagni, 2011. "Financial and economic determinants of firm default," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 373-406, August.
    2. Anna Ferragina & Fernanda Mazzotta, 2014. "FDI spillovers on firm survival in Italy: absorptive capacity matters!," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 39(6), pages 859-897, December.
    3. FERRAGINA, Anna Maria, 2013. "The Impact of FDI on Firm Survival and Employment: A Comparative Analysis for Turkey and Italy," CELPE Discussion Papers 127, CELPE - Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy, University of Salerno, Italy.
    4. Ferragina, Anna & Pittiglio, Rosanna & Reganati, Filippo, 2012. "Multinational status and firm exit in the Italian manufacturing and service sectors," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 363-372.
    5. Steffen Mueller & Jens Stegmaier, 2015. "Economic failure and the role of plant age and size," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 44(3), pages 621-638, March.

    More about this item


    firm default and exit; firm size; bootstrap probit regressions.;

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • G30 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - General
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms

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