To read this content please select one of the options below:

Approaching rural firm growth: a literature review

Maria Tunberg (Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden)

Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy

ISSN: 1750-6204

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




This review investigates the extent and content of research into rural firm growth, and identifies and describes various approaches to studying firm growth.


The paper is guided by the systematic literature review framework which, combined with a qualitative assessment, ensures a rigorous review. An initial set of 200 peer reviewed articles was included in the review. During the quality assessment stage this set was reduced to 50 articles which were analysed in depth.


Three approaches to firm growth are identified and explored, focusing on the output, process and context of firm growth. The results further indicate increasing interest in rural firm growth and identify six themes constituting the research field.


Firm growth is advocated as a solution to development challenges, especially in rural settings. However, the firm growth literature is dominated by outcome-based research, often focused on technology-based businesses in dynamic urban regions, whose results are not easily transferable to rural contexts. This review contributes by mapping the current state of knowledge in the field, by articulating and discussing taken-for-granted assumptions with regard to firm growth and by identifying three approaches to firm growth, of which the context approach is the least common but which may prove valuable to further increase in the understanding of rural firm growth.



An early draft of this review was presented at the Rural at the Edge – 2nd Nordic Conference for Rural Research in Joensuu, Finland, in May 2012, and a revised and extended version was presented at the RENT conference in Lyon, France, in November 2012. The author is grateful for comments from participants at these conferences. The author would also like to express gratitude to Johan Gaddefors, Richard Ferguson, Cecilia Mark-Herbert, Steffen Korsgaard, Anders W. Johansson, Suvi Kokko, Ashkan Pakseresht and Lovisa Nilsson for their valuable input.


Tunberg, M. (2014), "Approaching rural firm growth: a literature review", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 261-286.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles