Tuesday, August 19, 2003


Does anyone know of any studies that examine the effects of size on institutions? That may seem like a vague question, so here's an example: I once read of a study showing that the Hutterite colonies of South Dakota tend to split in two once the population reaches 130-150. Dean Lueck, Contracting Into the Commons, in The Political Economy of Customs and Culture: Informal Solutions to the Commons Problem 43, 50 (Terry L. Anderson & Randy T. Simmons eds., 1993). Apparently once a particular number of people are part of the community, things start breaking down, and the choice is either to radically change the mode of governance or else split into two communities of a more appropriate size.

Here are some more examples (all hypothetical) of what I'd like to find:
  • Studies (probably from organizational economics) showing how the number of employees -- in and of itself -- affects business operations. Note: I'm not as interested here in antitrust-type studies on vertical integration, etc. I'm just interested in whether the number of employees itself has an effect on organizational structure, effectiveness in the market (all else being equal), etc.

  • Studies showing the effects of 1) geographical size or 2) population on democratic governance within a political jurisdiction. Are there differences in governance mechanisms and effectiveness as between a town of 20,000 and a town of 80,000? What about the increasing size of congressional districts (due to population increases while Congress's membership is fixed)? Has that had any effect?

  • Studies regarding how size affects other types of organizations -- churches, communities like the Hutterite farms mentioned above, online communities, clubs and other social organizations, etc.
It's a difficult question for any one person to research, because it requires a familiarity with several different bodies of scholarly literature. Can anyone help me out?


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