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On the effect of the costs of operating formally: New experimental evidence

Listed author(s):
  • Galiani, Sebastian
  • Meléndez, Marcela
  • Ahumada, Camila Navajas

This paper analyzes the impact of the elimination of the initial fixed costs of business registration on the decision of informal firms to operate formally in Bogotá, Colombia. The Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá (CCB) conducts workshops for prospective formal-sector entrants and arranges personalized meetings for them with CCB agents. The CCB's decision to significantly reduce the transaction costs of registration and the entry into force of Act No. 1429 of 2010, which eliminated the costs of the initial procedure for registering as a formal enterprise and provided tax exemptions during the first years after formalization, provided us with an ideal natural experiment for studying how the elimination of the initial fixed costs of formalization would influence firms’ decision to operate formally or not. We obtained two important results. First, while a workshop treatment had no effect on firms’ formalization decisions, meetings at the firm with CCB agents raised the likelihood that a business would begin to operate formally by 5.5 percentage points for all the firms that were invited, at random, to participate in this segment of the intervention and by 32 percentage points for the firms that accepted the invitation. Second, the effect on the treated firms did not persist over time. In fact, after a year of formal operation, the effect disappeared. These results indicate that substantial reductions in the fixed costs of operating formally are not an effective means of influencing formalization choices, since such reductions had no lasting effect on formalization decisions.

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File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0927537116303529
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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Labour Economics.

Volume (Year): 45 (2017)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 143-157

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Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:45:y:2017:i:c:p:143-157
DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2016.11.011
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/labeco

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  1. Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2009. "In Pursuit of Balance: Randomization in Practice in Development Field Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 200-232, October.
  2. Cruces, Guillermo & Galiani, Sebastian, 2007. "Fertility and female labor supply in Latin America: New causal evidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 565-573, June.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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. Almeida, Rita K. & Carneiro, Pedro, 2005. "Enforcement of Regulation, Informal Labor and Firm Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 1759, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Kaplan, David S. & Piedra, Eduardo & Seira, Enrique, 2011. "Entry regulation and business start-ups: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1501-1515.
  8. 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.
  9. Almeida, Rita & Carneiro, Pedro, 2005. "Enforcement of labor regulation, informal labor, and firm performance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3756, The World Bank.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Sebastian Galiani & Federico Weinschelbaum, 2012. "Modeling Informality Formally: Households And Firms," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 50(3), pages 821-838, 07.
  13. 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.
  14. De Giorgi, Giacomo & Rahman, Aminur, 2013. "SME’s registration: Evidence from an RCT in Bangladesh," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(3), pages 573-578.
  15. Gustavo Henrique de Andrade & Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2016. "A Helping Hand or the Long Arm of the Law? Experimental Evidence on What Governments Can Do to Formalize Firms," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 30(1), pages 24-54.
  16. repec:hrv:faseco:33078210 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Joshua D. Angrist, 2004. "Treatment effect heterogeneity in theory and practice," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(494), pages 52-83, 03.
  18. 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.
  19. Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2014. "Entry Regulation and the Formalization of Microenterprises in Developing Countries," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 29(2), pages 186-201.
  20. Campos, Francisco & Goldstein, Markus & McKenzie, David, 2015. "Short-term impacts of formalization assistance and a bank information session on business registration and access to finance in Malawi," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7183, The World Bank.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
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