Neighbourhood spatial order and firm mobility in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods of the Netherlands

Pascal Beckers & B. Sleutjes


In recent years, urban residential neighbourhoods in the Netherlands have become increasingly known to function as incubation zones for small-scale businesses. Despite this development, little is known about whether and how the local production environment in these neighbourhoods shapes firm development prospects.

In this paper we remedy this shortcoming by studying how two aspects of the local production environment, namely the neighbourhood built environment and spatial regulations, affect firm mobility of small-scale businesses in urban residential neighbourhoods. Towards this aim, we contrast two sets of urban neighbourhoods, namely pre-WWII and post-WWII neighbourhoods, with comparable, low socio-economic profile, but with distinct built environment and spatial regulations.

We combine quantitative and qualitative methods analysing available trade register data from Dutch regional Chambers of Commerce, studying neighbourhood development plans, and conducting focus group and individual interviews with neighbourhood experts and entrepreneurs.

The local built environment and its spatial regulations do indeed appear to affect firm mobility choices of entrepreneurs in the studied neighbourhoods, although overall mobility rates do not significantly differ between pre-war and post-war neighbourhoods. Further analysis, however, reveals that these two sets of neighbourhoods offer distinct local production environments, since the nature of commercial activities and entrepreneurs' neighbourhood experiences differ notably.

Keywords: urban residential neighbourhoods, small-scale business, local production environment, firm mobility, neighbourhood built environment, spatial regulations

JEL codes: R23, R21