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More Than Just a Number? The Conceptualization and Measurement of Firm Age in an Era of Temporary Organizations

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Despite the long history of research on firm age, recent theorizing on firm age has been rare. Meanwhile, significant shifts in the business landscape have altered how firms age and limited the age they are likely to reach. This article seeks to reinvigorate research on firm age by providing the first comprehensive review of the construct while considering how recent studies on time and organizing may be pertinent. We provide evidence that certain long-held assumptions about age have changed as organizations have become increasingly temporary and discuss what this means for organizational research going forward. We inductively structured our review along five themes in the literature: [1] research on age-dependence in organizational mortality rates; [2] research on age-related differences in firm processes or structures; [3] research enriching the theoretical understanding of firm age; [4] research that includes firm age as a control variable; and [5] methodological issues in the study of firm age. Across these five themes we identify important work, integrate what we know, identify gaps and inconsistencies, and offer recommendations for future research. While we believe the implications we discuss hold general value for a broad spectrum of research that includes firm age in either a primary or secondary manner, we derive more specific recommendations for two streams of research in particular, namely (1) research on entrepreneurial success and failure, which is directly tied to the liability of newness and hence firm age, and (2) the literature on temporary organizations, which is concerned with the intended and actual durations of firms.
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