Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development

Contents:

Author Info

  • Rafael La Porta
  • Andrei Shleifer

Abstract

In developing countries, informal firms (those that are not registered with the government) account for about half of all economic activity. We consider three broad views of the role of such firms in economic development. According to the romantic view, these firms would become the engine of economic growth if not stopped by government regulation. According to the parasite view, informal firms, by avoiding taxes and regulations, unfairly compete with the more efficient formal firms and, by taking away their market share, undermine economic progress. According to the dual view, informal firms are highly inefficient, do not pose much threat to the formal firms, but also do not contribute to economic growth, which is driven by the efficient formal firms. Using data from World Bank firm level surveys, we find that informal firms are small and extremely unproductive, compared even to the small formal firms, and especially relative to the larger formal firms. Compared to the informal firms, formal ones are run by much better educated managers. As a consequence, they use more capital, have different customers, market their products, and use more external finance. Hardly any formal firms had ever operated informally. This evidence is inconsistent with the romantic and parasite views, but supports the dual view. In this "Walmart" theory of economic development, growth comes from the creation of the highly productive formal firms. Informal firms keep millions of people alive, but disappear over time.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14520.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14520.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Dec 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Rafael La Porta & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(2 (Fall)), pages 275-363.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14520

Note: EFG
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Email:
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords:

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Áureo de Paula & José A. Scheinkman, 2007. "The Informal Sector," NBER Working Papers 13486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Djankov, Simeon & La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "The Regulation of Entry," Working Paper Series, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government rwp01-015, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Maloney, William F. & Montes-Rojas, Gabriel V., 2009. "Does Formality Improve Micro-Firm Performance? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from the Brazilian SIMPLES Program," IZA Discussion Papers 4531, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther, 2006. "The Economic Lives of the Poor," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5968, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Miriam Bruhn, 2011. "License to Sell: The Effect of Business Registration Reform on Entrepreneurial Activity in Mexico," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 382-386, February.
  6. Rmalho, Rita & Ganser, Tim Christian & Shleifer, Andrei & McLiesh, Caralee & Djankov, Simeon, 2010. "The Effect of Corporate Taxes on Investment and Entrepreneurship," Scholarly Articles 8705900, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-42, March.
  8. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2000. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development 105, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  9. Simeon Djankov & Oliver Hart & Caralee McLiesh & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "Debt Enforcement around the World," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1105-1149, December.
  10. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Chad Syverson, 2008. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 394-425, March.
  11. Katayama, Hajime & Lu, Shihua & Tybout, James R., 2009. "Firm-level productivity studies: Illusions and a solution," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 403-413, May.
  12. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Mastruzzi, Massimo, 2005. "Governance matters IV : governance indicators for 1996-2004," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3630, The World Bank.
  13. Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & La Porta, Rafael & Shleifer, Andrei, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Scholarly Articles 2962610, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Simon Johnson & Daniel Kaufman & Andrei Shleifer, 1997. "The Unofficial Economy in Transition," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 159-240.
  15. Loayza, Norman V. & Rigolini, Jamele, 2006. "Informality trends and cycles," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4078, The World Bank.
  16. Camilo Mondragón-Vélez & Ximena Peña, 2010. "Business Ownership and Self-Employment in Developing Economies: The Colombian Case," NBER Chapters, in: International Differences in Entrepreneurship, pages 89-127 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Banerjee, Abhijit V. & Duflo, Esther, 2005. "Growth Theory through the Lens of Development Economics," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 473-552 Elsevier.
  18. Rauch, James E., 1991. "Modelling the informal sector formally," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 33-47, January.
  19. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2009. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1403-1448, November.
  20. Tor Jakob Klette & Zvi Griliches, 1992. "The Inconsistency of Common Scale Estimators When Output Prices Are Unobserved and Engogenous," NBER Working Papers 4026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. John Bennett & Saul Estrin, 2007. "Informality as a Stepping Stone: Entrepreneurial Entry in a Developing Economy," CEDI Discussion Paper Series, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University 07-11, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
  22. Loayza, Norman A., 1997. "The economics of the informal sector : a simple model and some empirical evidence from Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1727, The World Bank.
  23. Almeida, Rita & Carneiro, Pedro, 2006. "Enforcement of Regulation, Informal Labour, Firm Size and Firm Performance," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5976, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  24. Murphy, Kevin M. & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Scholarly Articles 3606235, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  25. Juan Botero & Simeon Djankov & Rafael Porta & Florencio C. Lopez-De-Silanes, 2004. "The Regulation of Labor," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 119(4), pages 1339-1382, November.
  26. Dabla-Norris, Era & Gradstein, Mark & Inchauste, Gabriela, 2008. "What causes firms to hide output? The determinants of informality," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 85(1-2), pages 1-27, February.
  27. Schneider, Friedrich G., 2007. "Shadow Economies and Corruption All Over the World: New Estimates for 145 Countries," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, vol. 1(9), pages 1-66.
  28. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Measuring microenterprise profits : don't ask how the sausage is made," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4229, The World Bank.
  29. Amaral, Pedro S. & Quintin, Erwan, 2006. "A competitive model of the informal sector," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1541-1553, October.
  30. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 1978. "On the Size Distribution of Business Firms," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 508-523, Autumn.
  31. Enste, Dominik & Schneider, Friedrich, 1998. "Increasing Shadow Economies all over the World - Fiction or Reality?," IZA Discussion Papers 26, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. The Work Of The World’s Poor
    by ? in The Dish on 2013-07-10 22:37:00
  2. Africa’s Structural Transformation Challenge
    by Dani Rodrik in Project Syndicate on 2013-12-12 10:00:00
  3. Bob Diamond v Dani Rodrik on Africa’s growth prospects
    by Duncan in From Poverty to Power on 2013-12-18 07:30:15
  4. Africa’s Entrepreneurs Can’t Be Restrained by Fear of Failure
    by Bryan Mezue in HBR Blog Network on 2014-01-09 13:00:16
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14520. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.