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Past, present and future of empirical research on employee-owned firms: a structured literature review over 1970–2019

Thibault Mirabel (EconomiX, Paris-Nanterre University, Nanterre, France)

Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership

ISSN: 2514-7641

Article publication date: 2 June 2021

Issue publication date: 23 June 2021




This paper reviews the evolution, current state and ongoing trends of the empirical literature on employee-owned firms (EOFs).


Using a structured literature review methodology, I analyze 280 empirical publications on EOFs published in English peer-reviewed academic journals over the 1970–2019 period.


Two generations (before and after 2001) of the EOF empirical literature are identified and characterized in terms of authors, journals, topics, methods, targets, relations to theoretical modeling and countries studied. Two research trends are structuring the current generation: one investigating diverse research questions engaging EOFs as emblematic forms of social economy, and the other comparing EOFs to conventional firms to offer insights mainly into the seminal question of the EOF relative rarity.

Research limitations/implications

The sample studied does not take into account articles written in languages other than English and does not include books.


This article displays the first structured literature review of the EOF empirical literature.



An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the IAFEP conference organized in collaboration with the Beyster Symposium, La Jolla (online), June 2020. The author is grateful to conference participants for comments, particularly David Ellerman and Erik K. Olsen. The author also thanks the two anonymous reviewers for their fruitful remarks.

Data availability statement: The data that support the findings of this study is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


Mirabel, T. (2021), "Past, present and future of empirical research on employee-owned firms: a structured literature review over 1970–2019", Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 1-25.



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