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Liability of Middleness Revisited: The Advantages for Mid-Sized Competitors in Renewable Natural Resource Industries

  • Alfonso Cruz (a1), Tomas Reyes (a1) and Roberto Vassolo (a1)

Size is an important antecedent of firm survival, and several studies theoretically sustain and empirically support a ‘liability of middleness’. Indeed, it is widely believed that companies should act strategically to either become large or remain small and occupy a niche position, because mid-sized firms face the strongest market selection pressures. This study challenges that logic in renewable natural resource industries. Measuring size as product-line scale and firm-level portfolio breadth, we argue that in industries characterized by cost competition, the lack of product differentiation, large capital investments, and sharp price oscillation, scale and breadth have a curvilinear effect on survival that favors mid-sized firms rather than penalizing them. An empirical analysis of the US pulp and paper (P&P) industry over the period 1970–2000 strongly supports our arguments. This study is particularly relevant for emerging economies, in which natural resource industries represent an important portion of the total economic activity.


Размер является важной предпосылкой для выживания компании, и некоторые исследования теоретически утверждают и эмпирически подтверждают “бремя середнячка”. Действительно, широко распространено мнение о том, что компании должны сделать стратегический выбор, чтобы либо стать крупными, либо оставаться мелкими и занимать нишевые позиции, поскольку компании среднего размера сталкиваются с сильнейшим давлением на рынке. Данное исследование ставит под сомнение эту логику в отрасли возобновляемых природных ресурсов. Определяя размер компании как масштаб производства и широту ассортимента, мы утверждаем, что в отраслях, которые характеризуются конкуренцией за счет низких затрат, отсутствием дифференциации продукции, крупными капиталовложениями и резкими ценовыми колебаниями, масштаб и широта производства оказывают обратное влияние на выживание, что ставит компании среднего размера в более выгодное положение, а не наоборот. Эмпирический анализ целлюлозно-бумажной промышленности в США за период 1970–2000 годов полностью подтверждает наши предположения. Это исследование особенно актуально для стран с развивающейся экономикой, в которых отрасли, связанные с переработкой природных ресурсов, являются важной частью общей экономической активности.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Roberto Vassolo (
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Accepted by: Deputy Editor Gerald A. McDermott

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