World Development, 23 (1) 29-41

In this paper we present the results of empirical research carried out in two footwear clusters located in Italy, the “land of industrial districts,” and two clusters of footwear enterprises in Mexico. The aim of the study is to present a comparison between the ideal-typical industrial district, as it is defined in the literature, and the case studies in Mexico and Italy. Material from a survey of clusters of firms in Italy and Mexico reveals how clusters in both countries differ in some aspects from the “textbook” model. Similarities and differences are- investigated in some detail, and attention is given to the intensity and quality of backward and forward linkages, the existence of an “industrial atmosphere” and the nature and extent of institutional support.