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The anatomy of behavioral responses to social assistance when informal employment is high

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  • Bergolo, M.
  • Cruces, G.

Abstract

The disincentive effects of social assistance programs on registered (or formal) employment are a first-order policy concern in developing and middle-income countries. We study the impact of a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in Uruguay on the employment of adult members in beneficiary households in a context of high informality. Our research design relies on the sharp discontinuity introduced by program eligibility rules around a poverty score threshold combined with longitudinal administrative data. We find reductions of about 6 percentage points (a 13% drop) in formal labor force participation among all beneficiaries and of 8.7 percentage points (a 19% drop) for single mothers. The implied elasticity of participation in the formal sector with respect to the net-of-tax rate is about 0.78 for the full sample and about 1.3 for single mothers. The reduction in labor supply is stronger among individuals who have a medium propensity to be formally employed, with a smaller reduction in the case of infra-marginal individuals. We also present suggestive evidence that the reduction in formal employment increases inactivity and informal work in equal proportions. Finally, despite pervasive informality in the context of the Family Allowance assistance program (AFAM), the program’s marginal value of public funds of 0.61 implies an efficiency cost within the range of cash transfer programs targeted to families in the United States.

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  • Bergolo, M. & Cruces, G., 2021. "The anatomy of behavioral responses to social assistance when informal employment is high," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:193:y:2021:i:c:s0047272720301778
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104313
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    Cited by:

    1. Hartley, Robert Paul & Lamarche, Carlos, 2018. "Behavioral responses and welfare reform: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 135-151.
    2. Liepmann, Hannah & Pignatti, Clemente, 2021. "Welfare Effects of Unemployment Benefits When Informality Is High," IZA Discussion Papers 14601, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Asenjo, Antonia & Escudero, Veronica & Liepmann, Hannah, 2022. "Why Should We Integrate Income and Employment Support? A Conceptual and Empirical Investigation," IZA Discussion Papers 15401, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Bergolo, M. & Cruces, G., 2021. "The anatomy of behavioral responses to social assistance when informal employment is high," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    5. Andy McKay & Jukka Pirttilä & Caroline Schimanski, 2019. "The tax elasticity of formal work in African countries," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-69, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Bergolo, Marcelo & Galván, Estefanía, 2018. "Intra-household Behavioral Responses to Cash Transfer Programs. Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 100-118.
    7. Zhao, Fang & Xu, Jiayi & Fang, Guanfu, 2022. "The heterogeneous effects of employment-based pension policies on employment: Evidence from urban China," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    8. Ivone Perazzo & Analía Rivero & Andrea Vigorito, 2021. "¿Qué sabemos sobre los programas de transferencias no contributivas en Uruguay? Una síntesis de resultados de investigación disponibles sobre el PANES, AFAM-PE y TUS," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 21-33, Instituto de Economia - IECON.
    9. Gerard, François & Naritomi, Joana & Silva, Joana, 2021. "Cash Transfers and Formal Labor Markets: Evidence from Brazil," CEPR Discussion Papers 16286, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. McKay Andy & Pirttilä Jukka & Schimanski Caroline, 2018. "The Elasticity of Formal Work in African Countries," Working Papers 1820, Tampere University, School of Management and Business, Economics.
    11. Marisa Bucheli & Maximo Rossi & Florencia Amábile, 2018. "Inequality and fiscal policies in Uruguay by race," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 16(3), pages 389-411, September.
    12. Joan Vilá, 2019. "Respuestas en los ingresos frente a un programa de transferencias monetarias: evidencia de un notch a partir de registros administrativos de Uruguay," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 19-07, Instituto de Economia - IECON.
    13. Bryan, Gharad & Chowdhury, Shyamal & Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq & Morten, Melanie & Smits, Joeri, 2021. "Encouragement and Distortionary Effects of Conditional Cash Transfers," IZA Discussion Papers 14326, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. Bosch, Mariano & Schady, Norbert, 2019. "The effect of welfare payments on work: Regression discontinuity evidence from Ecuador," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 17-27.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cash transfer programs; Labor supply; Registered employment; Efficiency costs;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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