Small Business Economics, 10(3):243-262

The focus of this article is on the analysis of the collective economic effects deriving from the intense set of backward, forward, labor, horizontal and institutional linkages existing within clusters of enterprises. Among the economic effects two main categories are distinguished: external economies, which are the spontaneous by-product of economic activities undertaken within the clusters and cooperation effects, which are the results of explicit and deliberate cooperative behaviors of the economic actors. In the empirical investigation, these economic effects have been analyzed in four clusters of footwear firms in Italy and Mexico. The first result of the empirical investigation is the confirmation of the importance of collective efficiency both in the ‘proper’ Italian districts and in the Mexican clusters. Nevertheless, there are considerable differences concerning the intensity and quality of the collective effects between the realities studied. Those differences are explained through the impact of the disparities in the outside environment on the core characteristics of the different clusters. Finally, some considerations about the need for moving from a static to a dynamic approach to explain differences between stages of development and growth trajectory patterns of the districts are put forward.