All grown up? The fate after 15 years of a quarter of a million UK firms born in 1998

Michael Anyadike-danes, Mark Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The theory of firm growth is in a rather unsatisfactory state. However, the analysis of large firm-level datasets which have become available in recent years allows us to begin building an evidence base which can, in turn, be used to underpin the development of more satisfactory theory. Here we study the 239 thousand UK private sector firms born in 1998 over their first 15 years of life. A first, and quite striking, finding is the extraordinary force of mortality. By age 15, 90% of the UK firms born in 1998 are dead, and, for those surviving to age 15, the hazard of death is still about 10% a year. The chance of death is related to the size and growth of firms in an interesting way. Whilst the hazard rate after 15 years is largely independent of size at birth, it is strongly affected by the current (age 14) size. In particular, firms with more than five employees are half as likely to die in the next year as firms with less than five employees. A second important finding is that most firms, even those which survive to age 15, do not grow very much. By age 15 more than half the 26,000 survivors still have less than five jobs. In other words, the growth paths – what we call the ‘growth trajectories’ – of most of the 26,000 survivors are pretty flat. However, of the firms that do grow, firms born smaller grow faster than those born larger. Another striking finding is that growth is heavily concentrated in the first five years. Whilst growth does continue, even up to age 15, each year after age five it involves only a relatively small proportion of firms. Finally, there are two groups of survivors which contribute importantly to job creation. Some are those born relatively large (with more than 20 jobs) although their growth rate is quite modest. More striking though, is a very small group of firms born very small with less than five jobs (about 5% of all survivors) which contribute a substantial proportion (more than one third) of the jobs added to the cohort total by age 15.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-76
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Economics
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2018. This article is an open access publication. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Firm growth
  • Firm age
  • Firm size
  • Firm survival
  • Birth cohort


Dive into the research topics of 'All grown up? The fate after 15 years of a quarter of a million UK firms born in 1998'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this