The Slow Growth of New Plants: Learning about Demand?

Lucia Foster, John Haltiwanger, Chad Syverson , Economica 83 , 91-129 , January 2016.

It is well known that new businesses are typically much smaller than their established industry competitors, and that this size gap closes slowly. We show that even in commodity-like product markets, these patterns do not reflect productivity gaps, but rather show differences in demand-side fundamentals. We document and explore patterns in plants’ idiosyncratic demand levels by estimating a dynamic model of plant expansion in the presence of a demand accumulation process (e.g. building a customer base). We find that active accumulation driven by plants’ past production decisions quantitatively dominates passive demand accumulation, and that within-firm spillovers affect demand levels but not growth.

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