Visiting Scholar Thomas K. McCraw Fellow in U.S. Business History
Susana Martínez-Rodríguez is an Associate Professor of Economic History at the University of Murcia. She joined the Business History Iniciative at Harvard Business School during Fall 2019. During her fellowship she will analyze the relationship between the Francoism and the corporations in Spain (1939-1975). She will advance in the analysis of the impact of corporations on the political institutions; and how democratic institutions, and their authoritarian counterparts, affects country credibility.Moreover, Martínez-Rodríguez is the Vice-Chair of the European COST Action “Underground Built Heritage as Catalyser for Community Valorization.” Her main research interest is Economic History, Gender Business History, and Law and Economics. She is the principal investigator of a Research Project inside the Spanish National Plan of R &D that studies the participation of women in the Spanish firms in the long term (1850-2015) [ RTI2018-093884-B-I00].
Contrary to the impression put forth in the literature, Spanish women at the turn of the twentieth century played an active and visible role in the business sphere. Using a unique database containing microdata on the founders of Spanish multi-owner firms from 1886-1936, this study analyses the role of female owners and the legal structures that supported their participation in business. In that fifty-year period, over 10% of newly registered firms had at least one female owner. Of those owners, 70% were widows. The majority of those women had management responsibilities in their firm. Multi-owner firms with at least one female owner display marked differences, in terms of capital, number of partners, family ties, and management, from those run solely by men.
Every new firm selects a legal form. Organizing as a corporation, a limited company, or a partnership shapes the firm’s access to capital markets, its governance arrangements and tax liabilities, and its treatment in bankruptcy. We use multinomial choice models to estimate the determinants of enterprise form using firm-level data on Spain for the period 1886–1936. Our results support hypotheses drawn from the corporate-finance and ownership literatures; entrepreneurs preferred the corporation for the largest firms and for firms vulnerable to holdup. In 1919, Spain introduced a new legal form, a limited company combining attributes of the corporation and the partnership. This Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada (SRL) displaced both corporations and partnerships, and was especially popular for small and medium-sized firms whose owners were unrelated. Counterfactual calculations suggest that few enterprises created prior to 1919 would have chosen the SRL even if it had been available.
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