Revisiting 'Traits to Rates' After 25 Years: Organizational Ecology's Limited Impact on Entrepreneurship Research


In this chapter, the authors investigate the degree to which organizational ecology (OE) had a long-term impact on the way scholars study organizational foundings. Dubbed the ‘rates’ approach by Aldrich and Weidenmayer (1993), OE argued that organizational foundings depend on intra- and inter-population processes such as organizational density, prior foundings, and prior disbandings. It de-emphasized the personal characteristics of founders and entrepreneurs – the ‘traits’ approach. The analyses reveal that OE had limited impact, especially after the mid-2000s. OE’s limited appeal is partially explained by its lack of influence on scholars outside its orbit of influence and/or those publishing in non-sociology journals. In contrast to OE’s slight long-term impact, the authors argue that another perspective that was attuned to environmental conditions – new institutional theory (NIT) – has had greater success in influencing scholars studying foundings. The authors speculate that OE’s impact was ultimately limited because it was embedded in a relatively exclusive scholarly community, compared to NIT’s more inclusive scope.

Seminal Ideas for the Next Twenty-Five Years of Advances