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Why and where do headquarters move?

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This paper analyzes decisions regarding the location of headquarters in the U.S. for the period 1996-2001. Using a unique firm-level database of about 30,000 U.S. headquarters, the authors study the firm- and location-specific characteristics of headquarters that relocated over that period. Headquarters are concentrated, increasingly so in medium-sized service-oriented metropolitan areas, and the rate of relocation is significant (5% a year). Larger (in terms of sales) and younger headquarters tend to relocate more often, as well as larger (in terms of the number of headquarters) and foreign firms, and firms that are the outcome of a merger. Headquarters relocate to metropolitan areas with good airport facilities, low corporate taxes, low average wages, high level of business services and agglomeration of headquarters in the same sector of activity.

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