Designs of Empirical Studies in ecological perspective: Comparison of Data Sets

The labor union, semiconductor, and newspaper data sets cover their re- spective organizational populations over their full histories. However, the histories of unions and newspapers are a good deal longer than the 39 years for the semiconductor industry. The result is more observations over time in the union and newspaper studies. On the other hand, many variables that one might want to employ in the study of unions and newspapers are simply unavailable for the first decades of their existence.

An important difference between the three kinds of organizations is the more obvious specification of resource bases for semiconductor and news- paper companies. The linkages between market and technology and the life chances of semiconductor and newspaper firms are simply more apparent than are comparable linkages for national labor unions. Unions organize workers, but they can persist for long periods of time with few members and relatively little money. The difficulty of identifying resource bases of unions with confidence is in part a function of their changing nature over time. Over the history of the American labor movement, unions changed from social movements to organizations. With this change came shifts in the resources they used and the factors generating waves of foundings and disappearances. Semiconductor companies and newspaper publishing firms have changed primarily in the corporate context. As capital requirements rose with sophistication in production technology and the efficient scale of the minimal production unit increased, the vagaries of the capital markets became more significant. In the case of semiconductor manufacturing firms, operating as a free-standing merchant market specialist became problematic as financial might and marketing acumen came to rival technical excellence as factors dominating the life chances of semiconductor firms. In the case of newspaper publishers, the rise to dominance of national publishing companies (“chains”) has had a dramatic impact on the shape of the industry. These differences are useful in this study because we want to learn whether the processes we have identified are general ones. Despite the differences among the forms, we have been able to code the histories of all organizations in the three populations using the same basic scheme. The next chapter describes how we analyze these organizational histories.

Source: Hannan Michael T., Freeman John (1993), Organizational Ecology, Harvard University Press; Reprint edition.

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