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CEP Discussion Paper
Does Product Market Competition Lead Firms to Decentralize?
Nick Bloom, Raffaella Sadun and John Van Reenen
January 2010
Paper No' CEPDP0966:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: L2; M2; O32; O33

Tags: decentralization; management practices

There is a widespread sense that over the last two decades firms have been decentralizing decisions to employees further down the managerial hierarchy. Economists have developed a range of theories to account for delegation, but there is less empirical evidence, especially across countries. This has limited the ability to understand the phenomenon of decentralization. To address the empirical lacuna we have developed a research program to measure the internal organization of firms - including their decentralization decisions - across a large range of industries and countries. In this paper we investigate whether greater product market competition increases decentralization. For example, tougher competition may make local manager's information more valuable, as delays to decisions become more costly. Since globalization and liberalization have increased the competitiveness of product markets, one explanation for the trend towards decentralization could be increased competition. Of course there are a range of other factors that may also be at play, including human capital, information and communication technology, culture and industrial composition. To tackle these issues we collected detailed information on the internal organization of firms across nations. The few datasets that exist are either from a single industry or (at best) across many firms in a single country. We analyze data on almost 4,000 firms across twelve countries in Europe, North America and Asia. We find that competition does indeed seem to foster greater decentralization.