In this paper, we examine the macro-to-micro-transition of cluster externalities to firms and how it is affected by the macroeconomic instability caused by the recessionary shock of 2008/2009. Using data from 16,166 manufacturing and business services firms nested in 390 German regions, we employ within-firm regression techniques to estimate the impact of crosslevel interactions between firm- and cluster-level determinants on phase-related differences in firm performance between a pre-crisis (2004-2007) and a crisis period (2009-2011).

The empirical results validate the existence of a macro-to-micro-transition that evolves best in the case of broad firm-level capabilities and variety-driven externalities. Furthermore, the results indicate that the transition strongly depends on the macroeconomic cycle. While the transition particularly benefits from a stable macroeconomic environment (2004-2007), its mechanisms are interrupted when being exposed to economic turmoil (2009-2011). Yet, the crisisinduced interruption of the transition is mainly restricted to the national recession in 2009. As soon as the macroeconomic pressure diminishes (2010-2011), we observe a reversion of the transmission mechanisms to the pre-crisis level.

Our study contributes to the existing literature by corroborating previous findings that the economic performance of firms depends on a working macro-to-micro transition of external resources, which presupposes sufficient cluster externalities and adequate firm-level combinative capabilities. In contrast to previous studies on this topic, the transition mechanism is not modeled as time-invariant. Instead, it is coupled to the prevailing macroeconomic regime.


Hundt, Christian
Holtermann, Linus
Steeger, Jonas
Bersch, Johannes


Macro-to-micro-transition, combinative capabilities, agglomeration economies, cluster-level externalities, unrelated variety, related variety, macroeconomic regimes, Great Recession, economic resilience