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Barriers To Entry And Returns To Capital In Informal Activities: Evidence From Sub‐Saharan Africa


This paper investigates the patterns of capital entry barriers and capital returns in informal Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE's) using a unique micro data set seven West-African countries. The author's findings support the view of a heterogeneous informal sector that is not primarily host to subsistence activities. While an assessment of initial investment identifies some informal activities with negligible entry barriers, a notable cost of entry is associated to most activities. The authors find very heterogeneous patterns of capital returns in informal MSE's. At very low levels of capital, marginal returns are extremely high- often exceeding 70 percent per month. Above a capital stock of 150 international dollars, marginal returns are found to be relatively low at around 4 to 7 percent monthly. The authors provide some evidence that the high returns at low capital stocks reflect high risks. At the same time, most MSE's appear to be severely capital constrained.

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Article provided by International Association for Research in Income and Wealth in its journal Review of Income and Wealth.

Volume (Year): 57 (2011)
Issue (Month): (05)
Pages: S27-S53

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Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:57:y:2011:i::p:s27-s53
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  1. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2934, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Paul Collier & Stefan Dercon & Marcel Fafchamps, 2000. "Credit Constraints in Manufacturing Enterprises in Africa," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2000-24, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1993. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 274-98, April.
  4. Henley, Andrew & Arabsheibani, Reza & Carneiro, Francisco G., 2006. "On Defining and Measuring the Informal Sector," IZA Discussion Papers 2473, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 2013. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Working Papers 2013-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  6. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 1997. "A Theory of Trickle-Down Growth and Development," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 151-72, April.
  7. Cunningham, Wendy V & Maloney, William F, 2001. "Heterogeneity among Mexico's Microenterprises: An Application of Factor and Cluster Analysis," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 131-56, October.
  8. Lloyd-Ellis, Huw & Bernhardt, Dan, 2000. "Enterprise, Inequality and Economic Development," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 147-68, January.
  9. Tybout, James R, 1983. "Credit Rationing and Investment Behavior in a Developing Country," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(4), pages 598-607, November.
  10. Christopher Udry & Santosh Anagol, 2006. "The Return to Capital in Ghana," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 388-393, May.
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