Edited by Giacomo Becattini, Marco Bellandi and Lisa De Propis
Chapter 28: Measuring the District Effect
Guido de Blasio, Massimo Omiccioli and Luigi Federico Signorini* 1. Introduction As is shown in various chapters of this Handbook, the Italian economy provides an ideal setting to study industrial districts (IDs).1 Towards the middle of the 1970s a group of economists, initially small and isolated, noticed that in some Italian regions small enterprises and traditional branches of industry – considered until then to be the weaker sector of a ‘dualisic’ t growth model – were surprisingly dynamic, a fact that did not fit with the ideas prevailing at the time with regard to stages of development. Their intuition was that the motor of this model of development consisted in the interaction beween t businesses and local community. They rediscovered the Marshallian notion of ‘ID’ and, on the basis of what they observed, began to theorise. From the beginning, however, the relationship between the theory of IDs and the facts was unusual. Initially, the only facts that economists of the last 50 years have been in the habit of considering worthy of note – that is, quantitative statistical data that are reliable and abundant enough to permit technically robust econometric testing – were scarce. This is why the theory of IDs began, and for a long time remained, largely non-quantitative or, more exactly, non-econometric, a fact that contributed to the delay with which it was accepted by mainstream economists. The first theoretical analyses of the IDs could be considered as an attempt to provide propositions of general validity based on the qualitative evidence...
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