Geography & Environment Publications

Firm Size Structure in North American Housebuilding: Persistent Deconcentration, 1945-1998

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Environment and Planning A

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In this paper I document and analyse the evolving firm size structure of the housebuilding industry in North America since World War 2, and place it in a wider context of industrial organisation. This is done first by synthesising the literature on housebuilding, particularly secondary data, to outline the industry's firm size and market share distributions. Second, the literature is extended with new and original data on the housebuilding industry for the province of Ontario, supplied by the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. The data are a complete annual census of builders in the province from 1978 through 1998. Using standard measures of industrial concentration and firm size classifications common to the housebuilding literature, Ontario is placed in the Canadian and North American contexts, to outline how housebuilding has evolved since World War 2. The main findings are that housebuilding shows no long-term trend toward rising market concentration. Rather, the industry's structure appears to change in cycles, while the largest firms have neither the growth rates nor the longevity to produce high levels of concentration common in other industries. On the basis of these findings, I suggest how insights into the firm size structure of housebuilding may benefit from, and contribute to, our understanding of social systems of production and discuss directions for future research.


Dr. Michael Buzzelli is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario.