Review of Industrial Organization 16: 53–68, 2000.
© 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The Positive Effect of Industrial District on the
Export Performance of Italian Firms
Università Tor Vergata, Roma, Facoltà di Economia, Dipartimento di Economia e Istituzioni, Via di
Tor Vergata snc, 00133 Roma, Italia
STEFANIA P. S. ROSSI
Istituto Universitario Navale, Facoltà di Economia, Istituto di Studi Economici, Via Medina 40,
80133 Napoli, Italia
Abstract. Economies of scale in the provision of export services and informal face-to-face ex-
changes of information about export markets may improve export performance of small ﬁrms located
in Marshallian districts (locales). This paper presents an empirical test of this hypothesis and ﬁnds
that geographical agglomeration of small-medium ﬁrms in a delimited area signiﬁcantly affects
their export intensity and their probability of becoming exporters. The signiﬁcance of geographical
agglomeration persists in spite of all controls which show how the dependent variable is also (pos-
itively) affected by export subsidies, formal export cooperation among ﬁrms, cooperation in (and
quality of) innovation, size and age.
Key words: Export performance, industrial district, technological innovation.
JEL classiﬁcation: L10, L60
A local model of economic development and industrial organization, widely known
as “industrial district”, was developed and consolidated in Italy in the last thirty
years. Many theoretical contributions have conceptualized the distinctive features
of this form of industrial development, based on afﬁliation of small-medium sized
ﬁrms in geographically delimited areas. According to Becattini (1991) an industrial
district is “a socio-territorial entity, characterized by the active presence of both a
A previous version of this paper has been presented at the International Workshop on “Italian
industrial districts: internationalization and export performance”, July 1997. The authors thank M.
Bagella, G. Becattini, M. Bellandi, G. Dei Ottati, G. Esposito, K. Kaiser, G. Pellegrini, G. Scanagatta,
S. Sacchi, F. Sforzi, for useful comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies. Although
this paper is a common research work; Sections I, II.2, IV.1 and V have been written by Rossi and
Sections II.1, III and IV.2 by Becchetti.