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Shining a spotlight on small rural businesses: How does their performance compare with urban?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jeremy Phillipson, Dr Pattanapong Tiwasing, Professor Matthew GortonORCiD, Dr Sara MaioliORCiD, Dr Robert Newbery, Roger Turner



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Rural enterprises play an important economic role, contributing to national prosperity and wellbeing but are often a blind spot within rural development and wider economic policies and evidence. This paper presents an urban-rural analysis of a large scale survey of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). It applies Propensity Score Matching to allow for an assessment of the effects of rurality on business performance. Results show that England's rural firms have similar levels of turnover to their urban counterparts, but are more likely to report a profit. The analysis also reveals rural firms to be significantly stronger exporters of goods and services and to have goods or services suitable for exporting. However, there are some weaknesses and obstacles to business success that concern significantly more rural than urban firms, that vary with the rurality of local districts, and which require the attention of policy makers and support providers seeking to achieve spatially-balanced and more equitable economic development.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Phillipson J, Tiwasing P, Gorton M, Maioli S, Newbery R, Turner R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Rural Studies

Year: 2019

Volume: 68

Pages: 230-239

Print publication date: 01/05/2019

Online publication date: 03/10/2018

Acceptance date: 24/09/2018

Date deposited: 01/10/2018

ISSN (print): 0743-0167

ISSN (electronic): 1873-1392

Publisher: Pergamon Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2018.09.017


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Funder referenceFunder name
Enteperprise Research Centre (ERC)
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)