Firm performance and evolution: empirical regularities in the US microdata

This paper presents a view of firm performance, industry evolution, and economic growth that contrasts with the traditional representative firm model. The paper reviews recent empirical work, primarily studies using the Longitudinal Research Database (LRD), that explicitly focuses on individual business units. The major empirical regularity in the studies is that heterogeneity is pervasive — it is found across and within all sectors and across all plant characteristics. Further, firms are not only different in the cross-section. They enter at different times, make different choices, and react differently to economic shocks. Thus, to understand economic performance and competition, one must move beyond representative firm models. Competition must be understood as a process in which some firms choose correctly and grow while other firms choose poorly and die; the growth of the successful firms at the expense of less successful rivals drives economic growth.

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