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Cluster externalities, firm capabilities, and the recessionary shock: How the macro-to-micro-transition shapes firm performance during stable times and times of crisis

Hundt, Christian and Holtermann, Linus and Steeger, Jonas and Bersch, Johannes (2019): Cluster externalities, firm capabilities, and the recessionary shock: How the macro-to-micro-transition shapes firm performance during stable times and times of crisis.

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Abstract

In this paper, we examine the macro-to-micro-transition of cluster externalities to firms and how it is affected by the macroeconomic instability caused by the recessionary shock of 2008/2009. Using data from 16,166 manufacturing and business services firms nested in 390 German regions, we employ within-firm regression techniques to estimate the impact of cross-level interactions between firm- and cluster-level determinants on phase-related differences in firm performance between a pre-crisis (2004-2007) and a crisis period (2009-2011).

The empirical results validate the existence of a macro-to-micro-transition that evolves best in the case of broad firm-level capabilities and variety-driven externalities. Furthermore, the results indicate that the transition strongly depends on the macroeconomic cycle. While the transition particularly benefits from a stable macroeconomic environment (2004-2007), its mechanisms are interrupted when being exposed to economic turmoil (2009-2011). Yet, the crisis-induced interruption of the transition is mainly restricted to the national recession in 2009. As soon as the macroeconomic pressure diminishes (2010-2011), we observe a reversion of the transmission mechanisms to the pre-crisis level.

Our study contributes to the existing literature by corroborating previous findings that the economic performance of firms depends on a working macro-to-micro transition of external resources, which presupposes sufficient cluster externalities and adequate firm-level combinative capabilities. In contrast to previous studies on this topic, the transition mechanism is not modeled as time-invariant. Instead, it is coupled to the prevailing macroeconomic regime.

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