It's a simple enough question: how long does a typical business have to live? Economists have been thinking about that one for decades without a particularly clear answer, but new research by scientists at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico reveals a surprising insight: publicly-traded firms die off at the same rate regardless of their age or economic sector.
Companies come and go for a variety of reasons. Some are bought, some merge with others, and some go out of business completely. There's no shortage of theories about why.
Sizes of some 30,000 companies traded publicly on US markets from 1950-2009, measured by their sales (controlling for inflation and GDP growth). The relatively rapid growth of smaller companies near the beginnings of their lifespans account for the ragged lower portion of the chart, as well as the relatively steep initial sales increases. As companies reach maturity, their sales tend to level off.
Credit: Marcus Hamilton and Madeleine Daepp
"The theory of the firm--there are whole books on what people think is going on," says Marcus Hamilton, an SFI postdoctoral fellow and corresponding author of a new paper published in the journal Royal Society Interface.
Despite that, he says, "there is remarkably little quantitative work" on what economists call company mortality, and existing theory and evidence yield contradictory answers. Some researchers think younger companies are more likely to die than older ones, while others think just the opposite.
"We wanted to see if there was any kind of standard behavior or if it was just random," Hamilton says.
Hamilton, SFI Distinguished Professor Geoffrey West, and SFI Professor Luis Bettencourt asked Madeleine Daepp, then an Edward A. Knapp Undergraduate Fellow at SFI and first author of the new paper, to take the lead. "We gave her this basic idea, and she did the heavy lifting," Hamilton says. Daepp is now a graduate student at the University of British Columbia.
The heavy lifting, Hamilton explains, was going through Standard and Poor's Compustat, an expansive database of information on publicly-traded companies dating back to 1950. Using a statistical technique called survival analysis, Daepp and her mentors discovered something no one had predicted: a firm's mortality rate -- its risk of dying in, say, the next year -- had nothing to do with how long it had already been in business or what kinds of products it produced.
"It doesn't matter if you're selling bananas, airplanes, or whatever," Hamilton says -- the mortality rate is the same. Though the number, of course, varies from firm to firm, the team estimated that the typical company lasts about ten years before it's bought out, merges, or gets liquidated.
"The next question is, why might that be?" Hamilton says. The new paper largely avoids engaging with any particular economic model, though the researchers have some hypotheses inspired by ecological systems, where plants and animals have their own internal dynamics but must also compete for scarce resources -- just like businesses do.
John German | EurekAlert!
Microtechnology industry is hiring – positive developments of past years continue
09.04.2018 | IVAM Fachverband für Mikrotechnik
RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index with minor decline on a high overall level
20.03.2018 | RWI – Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences