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What do cooperative firms maximize, if at all? Evidence from Emilia‐Romagna in the pre‐Covid decade

Guido Caselli, Michele Costa and Flavio Delbono

Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, 2022, vol. 93, issue 4, 821-847

Abstract: The Italian region Emilia‐Romagna ranks first among the world's most important cooperative districts. Using a unique dataset covering all firms registered in the region, we investigate the performance of active firms in the period 2010–18. By focusing on added value, employment and profits of cooperative firms as compared to conventional firms, we disentangle the differences between the average performance of the two types of companies and detect the presence of a “size effect” driving much of the difference between them. Moreover, our results strengthen previous empirical evidence about the behavior of cooperative firms: they seem to optimize a mixture of employment and profits, assigning a greater weight to the former during downturns and stagnation. Hence, as a type of firm, they look more resilient than conventional companies, at least as far as employment is concerned. Finally, we examine the regional logistics industry and compare also the productivity per employee in the two segments of the sector.

Date: 2022
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