Organizations and Local Development: Economic and Demographic Growth among Southern Counties during Reconstruction

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Under conditions of uncertainty, we predict that development will be tied to the idiosyncrasy of organizational forms represented within local regions. Our investigation applies this theory to data on 342 counties and 43, 352 businesses in the U.S. South during Reconstruction, finding support for the thesis that organizational idiosyncrasy generally dampens growth and challenges taken-for-granted norms of community structure. The causal effect varies somewhat depending on whether the underlying mechanisms entail increases in the production of local goods, the accumulation of fixed capital, or the attraction of new residents and retention of existing ones. We conclude by considering if the theory may generalize to other settings, including locales that depart markedly from the close-knit agrarian culture of the postbellum South. © The University of North Carolina Press.





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Ruef, M, and K Patterson (2009). Organizations and Local Development: Economic and Demographic Growth among Southern Counties during Reconstruction. Social Forces, 87(4). pp. 1743–1776. 10.1353/sof.0.0190 Retrieved from

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Martin Ruef

Jack and Pamela Egan Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

My research considers the social context of entrepreneurship from both a contemporary and historical perspective. I draw on large-scale surveys of entrepreneurs in the United States to explore processes of team formation, innovation, exchange, and boundary maintenance in nascent business startups. My historical analyses address entrepreneurial activity and constraint during periods of profound institutional change. This work has considered a diverse range of sectors, including the organizational transformation of Southern agriculture and industry after the Civil War, African American entrepreneurship under Jim Crow, the transition of the U.S. healthcare system from professional monopoly to managed care, and the character of entrepreneurship during early mercantile and industrial capitalism.

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