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The Demand for, and Consequences of, Formalization among Informal Firms in Sri Lanka

  • Suresh de Mel
  • David McKenzie
  • Christopher Woodruff

A field experiment in Sri Lanka provides informal firms incentives to formalize. Information about the registration process and reimbursement of direct costs does not increase registration. Payments equivalent to one-half to one month (alternatively, two months) of the median firm's profits leads to registration of around one-fifth (alternatively, one-half ) of firms. Land ownership issues are the most common reason for not registering. Follow-up surveys 15 to 31 months later show higher mean profits, but largely in a few firms that grew rapidly. We find little evidence for other changes in behavior, but formalized firms express more trust in the state. (JEL C93, D22, L25, L26, O14)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 5 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 122-50

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:122-50
Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.5.2.122
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  1. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Measuring microenterprise profits: Must we ask how the sausage is made?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 19-31, January.
  2. Marianne Bertrand & Francis Kramarz, 2001. "Does Entry Regulation Hinder Job Creation? Evidence from the French Retail Industry," NBER Working Papers 8211, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Rafael La Porta & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 14520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2007. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," NBER Working Papers 13290, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kaplan, David S. & Piedra, Eduardo & Seira, Enrique, 2007. "Entry regulation and business start-ups : evidence from Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4322, The World Bank.
  6. 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.
  7. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
  8. McKenzie, David & Seynabou Sakho, Yaye, 2010. "Does it pay firms to register for taxes? The impact of formality on firm profitability," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 15-24, January.
  9. Klapper, Leora & Laeven, Luc & Rajan, Raghuram, 2006. "Entry regulation as a barrier to entrepreneurship," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 591-629, December.
  10. Guillermo E. Perry & William F. Maloney & Omar S. Arias & Pablo Fajnzylber & Andrew D. Mason & Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi, 2007. "Informality : Exit and Exclusion," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6730, September.
  11. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to capital in microenterprises : evidence from a field experiment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4230, The World Bank.
  12. Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Galiani & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2007. "The Formation of Beliefs: Evidence from the Allocation of Land Titles to Squatters," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 209-241, 02.
  13. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Maloney, William F. & Montes-Rojas, Gabriel V., 2011. "Does formality improve micro-firm performance? Evidence from the Brazilian SIMPLES program," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 262-276, March.
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