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Government policy in the formal and informal sectors

  • Prado, Mauricio

The paper quantitatively investigates, in general equilibrium, the interaction between the firms' choice to operate in the formal or the informal sector and government policy on taxation and enforcement, given a level of regulation. A static version of Ghironi and Melitz's (2005) industry model is used to show that firms with lower productivity endogenously choose to operate in the informal sector. I use cross-country data on taxes, measures of informality, and measures of regulation (entry and compliance costs, red tape, etc.) to back out how high the enforcement levels must be country by country to make the theory match the data. The welfare gains from policy reforms are on average 1.2% (measured in terms of consumption) for OECD countries. I also find that the welfare gains from reducing regulation are on average 2.1%. Finally, performing a similar decomposition to that of Hall and Jones (1999), I find that distortions associated with informality account for a factor of 1.5 of the output per capita difference between the richest and the poorest countries.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 55 (2011)
Issue (Month): 8 ()
Pages: 1120-1136

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:55:y:2011:i:8:p:1120-1136
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  1. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 6993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Andrew B Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2000. "Plants and productivity in international trade," Working Papers 00-08, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. R. Hirschowitz, 1989. "The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 57(4), pages 266-272, December.
  4. Fabio Ghironi & Marc J. Melitz, 2004. "International Trade and Macroeconomic Dynamics with Heterogeneous Firms," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 599, Boston College Department of Economics.
  5. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
  6. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  7. Yoshiaki Azuma & Herschel I. Grossman, 2002. "A Theory of the Informal Sector," Working Papers 2002-07, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  8. Fortin, Bernard & Marceau, Nicolas & Savard, Luc, 1997. "Taxation, wage controls and the informal sector," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 293-312, November.
  9. Loayza, Norman V., 1996. "The economics of the informal sector: a simple model and some empirical evidence from Latin America," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 129-162, December.
  10. Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio LopezdeSilanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2000. "The Regulation of Entry," NBER Working Papers 7892, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Hopenhayn, Hugo A, 1992. "Entry, Exit, and Firm Dynamics in Long Run Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1127-50, September.
  12. Amaral, Pedro S. & Quintin, Erwan, 2006. "A competitive model of the informal sector," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1541-1553, October.
  13. Aureo de Paula & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2007. "The Informal Sector," PIER Working Paper Archive 07-033, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  14. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
  15. Friedman, Eric & Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 2000. "Dodging the grabbing hand: the determinants of unofficial activity in 69 countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 459-493, June.
  16. Rauch, James E., 1991. "Modelling the informal sector formally," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 33-47, January.
  17. James Tybout, 1998. "Manufacturing Firms In Developing Countries: How Well Do They Do, And Why?," Development and Comp Systems 9805004, EconWPA.
  18. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Dirk Niepelt, 2004. "Timing Tax Evasion," Working Papers 04.07, Swiss National Bank, Study Center Gerzensee.
  20. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  21. Antunes, Antonio R. & Cavalcanti, Tiago V. de V., 2007. "Start up costs, limited enforcement, and the hidden economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 203-224, January.
  22. repec:rus:hseeco:122439 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. Banerjee, A.V., 1997. "A Theory of Misgovernance," Working papers 97-4, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  24. Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte, 1999. "Informality and rent-seeking bureaucracies in a model of long-run growth," Working Paper 99-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  25. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1997. "A Theory of Misgovernance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1289-1332, November.
  26. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 1978. "On the Size Distribution of Business Firms," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 508-523, Autumn.
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