Agglomeration theory is focused on large firms and why they cluster in cities. Economic theory thus far has very little to say about small businesses, their location choices and growth. This paper is original in that it seeks to fill this research gap through empirically investigating how small businesses – including those that are based in the owners’ homes – grow in agglomerations and whether small businesses can overcome their smallness disadvantage only in cities. This is the first paper that uses robust data to investigate the growth of non-employer businesses into employer businesses in cities in comparison with areas outside cities. Unique longitudinal business data are used and ‘real’ business growth measured. The findings reveal that city economies facilitate the growth of home grown businesses and that small businesses are an essential part of city economies.

This paper provides a new perspective on the role of housing in economic geography and thus advances knowledge of the interrelationship between housing and economic systems. It shows, for the first time, how people’s housing choices are shaping their decision to become self-employed and that home-based self-employment has distinct features. Different mechanisms how housing can influence people’s self-employment decisions are theoretically derived and tested using longitudinal microdata for the UK. In particular, and advancing existing empirical studies, it controls for endogeneity of housing to self-employment using a novel technique from health research.

This paper makes two novel contributions to economic geography and planning. First, it studies microbusinesses (those employing less than ten staff) including those that are based in the owner’s home which have been ignored in developed country contexts. Second, it links hitherto disconnected literatures in economic geography/ management and urban/neighbourhood studies and develops a concept of local resources for microbusinesses. It explores empirically the relevance of local resources for microbusinesses over the business cycle which have been overlooked in existing literatures. It uses a random sample of microbusinesses that includes informal (hidden) businesses. It enhances the dataset through data linkage with small-area census data.



This report has been conducted with support of the IPSE – the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-employed. Based on a survey of IPSE members it reveals the diverse ways in which mobile devices are used by freelancers and the significance of social media for networking, marketing and forming new contacts. Differences by professions, industries and working from home vs in other working places have emerged in how mobile technology is used for freelance work and what social media networks are used and for what purposes.


Working Papers 

  • Price V. and Reuschke D. (University of Southampton) Examining New Geographies of the Collective Agency of the Self-Employed and Home-Based Businesses. ERC WORKANDHOME Working Paper 5

The purpose of this report (completed December, 2017) is to inform further research into the organization and collective agency of the self-employed and home-based businesses. Many traditional trade unions may, by choice or by national law, be unable to accept self-employed members. Subsequently, across Europe there is an increasing number of organizations concerned with the rights and representation of the solo self-employed, micro-entrepreneurs and freelancers. Such organizations have received very limited attention in the academic literature. The following working paper brings together reports, membership data and online resources providing information and insight into these newer, lesser known organizations, and a review of the academic literature and research gaps in this field.

Drawing on literature from small business and entrepreneurship research that debates whether enterprises owned or led by women underperform those owned by men, this working paper investigates the turnover, employment and innovation performance of men and women-owned home-based businesses (HBBs). We further integrate theory from economic geography and spatial perspectives in entrepreneurship to explore the role of location in producing gendered business outcomes within the home-based sector. We conduct multivariate statistical analysis across multiple measures of performance, drawing upon a rich and representative sample of Small to Medium-Sized (SME) home-based businesses from the 2015 UK Longitudinal Small Business Survey. The findings reveal that women-owned HBBs do not underperform men in turnover or innovation and in fact, outperform men in employment.

  • Wilkins A. and Reuschke D. (University of Southampton) Beyond commercially curated co-working in the UK, France and Sweden. ERC WORKANDHOME Working Paper 3

This working paper examines coworking in homes and neighbourhoods in the UK, France and Sweden. It draws upon qualitative research on coworking that takes place in people’s homes, including Hoffice (Stockholm) and Cohome (Paris), as well as coworking that takes place in public spaces including cafes, community and leisure centres (Wimborne, Somerford and Winchester Jellies). The paper examines the background, organisation structure, location and users of each network, and provides information on the activities that take place as part of coworking in each case. Photographs taken by the researcher and participants are also included to visually document the coworking spaces and activities. This working paper forms part of the ERC WORKANDHOME project, which examines the economic, social and spatial drivers of home-based business.

  • Stadtler, L. (ILS/Technical University of Dortmund) Residential and employment biographies of self-employed home-based business owners in Germany.  ERC WORKANDHOME Working Paper, August 2017

Lisa Stadtler, a former student researcher in the WORKANDHOME project based at the ILS – Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development in Dortmund (Germany), recently submitted her Master’s thesis, entitled “Residential and employment biographies of self-employed home-based business owners” at the Technical University of Dortmund. The thesis examines the importance of the residential location for self-employed home-based business owners by means of their residential and employment biographies. Lisa conducted semi-structured interviews with home-based self-employed people in Germany. In order to organize the interviewees’ narrations about their residential and employment biographies, a timeline was handed to them. The timeline gave the interviewees the opportunity to fill out their periods of education and work as well as residential locations throughout their lives. At the same time the interviewees had the chance to talk about their motivations and incidents which caused changes of workplaces, employment statuses and residential locations, as well as reasons and events which led to their current working and housing situations, especially the respective home-based business.The interviews resulted in detailed residential and employment biographies and the observation of the connections between them. In addition, motivations for becoming and staying self-employed and running a home-based business were identified. The thesis identifies the importance of the residential location for the everyday lives and home-based businesses of self-employed people.

Microbusinesses (those that employ less than 10 people) represent a significant proportion of the economy. However, microbusinesses have been neglected in urban economic research and policy, which have focussed more on flagship investments and large firms. This working paper summarises own empirical work on microbusiness growth and locational requirements of microbusinesses including those that are based in the owners home.