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

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Listed:
  • Suresh de Mel
  • David McKenzie
  • Christopher Woodruff

Abstract

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)

Suggested Citation

  • Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2013. "The Demand for, and Consequences of, Formalization among Informal Firms in Sri Lanka," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 122-150, April.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David Kaplan & Eduardo Piedra & Enrique Seira, 2006. "Are Burdensome Registration Procedures an Important Barrier on Firm Creation? Evidence from Mexico," Discussion Papers 06-013, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    2. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2009. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1403-1448.
    3. Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2009. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 423-423.
    4. 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, pages 19-31.
    5. Rafael La Porta & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, pages 275-363.
    6. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 210-221.
    7. 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, pages 262-276.
    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, pages 15-24.
    9. 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, pages 382-386.
    10. Marianne Bertrand & Francis Kramarz, 2002. "Does Entry Regulation Hinder Job Creation? Evidence from the French Retail Industry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1369-1413.
    11. Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Galiant & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2007. "The Formation of Beliefs: Evidence from the Allocation of Land Titles to Squatters," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 209-241.
    12. 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, pages 15-24.
    13. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 210-221.
    14. repec:cup:apsrev:v:105:y:2011:i:04:p:765-789_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. Miguel Jaramillo, 2013. "Is there demand for formality among informal firms? Evidence from microfirms in downtown Lima," Avances de Investigación 0013, Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE).
    18. repec:hrv:faseco:33078210 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Kaplan, David S. & Piedra, Eduardo & Seira, Enrique, 2011. "Entry regulation and business start-ups: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 1501-1515.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology

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