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The Size Distribution of Firms in an Economy with Fixed and Entry Costs

Working Paper 633 | Published July 1, 2004

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Erzo G.J. Luttmer Visiting Scholar
The Size Distribution of Firms in an Economy with Fixed and Entry Costs


This paper describes an analytically tractable model of balanced growth that allows for extensive heterogeneity in the technologies used by firms. Firms enter with fixed characteristics that determine their initial technologies and the levels of fixed costs required to stay in business. Each firm produces a different good, and firms are subject to productivity and demand shocks that are independent across firms and over time. Firms exit when revenues are too low relative to fixed costs. Conditional on fixed firm characteristics, the stationary distribution of firm size satisfies a power law for all sizes above the size at which new firms enter. The tail of the size distribution decays very slowly if the growth rate of the initial productivity of potential entrants is not too far above the growth rate of productivity inside incumbent firms. In one interpretation, this difference in growth rates can be related to learning-by-doing inside firms and spillovers of the information generated as a result. As documented in a companion paper, heterogeneity in fixed firm characteristics together with idiosyncratic firm productivity growth can generate entry, exit, and growth rates, conditional on age and size, in line with what is observed in the data.