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Why Don't Poor Countries Adopt Better Technologies?

In this paper we develop a simple heterogeneous-agent model with incomplete markets to explain the prevalence of a large low-productivity, informal sector in developing countries. In our model, the provision of public infrastructure creates a productivity premium for formalization, which increases with infrastructure quality. Our model breaks the symmetry of equilibria and offers endogenous differentiation of rich and poor countries' behavior. While the model supports multiple stable equilibria in `rich' countries with varying degrees of formalization, including full formalization, it indicates an absence of equilibrium with full formalization in `poorer' countries. If legislative intolerance alone suffices to jolt a rich country into the equilibrium with complete formalization, accompanying policies may be required in poor countries to first provide the conditions for existence of such equilibrium.

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Paper provided by Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences économiques in its series Cahiers de recherche du Département des sciences économiques, UQAM with number 20-07.

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Length: 19
Date of creation: Mar 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming (revised version) in Journal of Development Economics, under the title `Taxes, Inequality and the Size of the Informal Sector'
Handle: RePEc:cre:uqamwp:20-07
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  1. Saint-Paul, Gilles & Verdier, Thierry, 1993. "Education, democracy and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 399-407, December.
  2. Stephen L. Parente & Edward C. Prescott, 1997. "Monopoly rights: a barrier to riches," Staff Report 236, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  3. Daniel Chen & Michael Kremer, 1999. "Income-Distribution Dynamics with Endogenous Fertility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 155-160, May.
  4. 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.
  5. Jane Ihrig & Karine S. Moe, 2000. "The dynamics of informal employment," International Finance Discussion Papers 664, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1996. "Why Are There Rich and Poor Countries? Symmetry-Breaking in the World Economy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 419-439, December.
  7. Adsera, Alicia & Ray, Debraj, 1998. " History and Coordination Failure," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 267-76, September.
  8. Azariadis, Costas, 1996. " The Economics of Poverty Traps: Part One: Complete Markets," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(4), pages 449-96, December.
  9. Dessy, Sylvain E. & Pallage, Stephane, 2001. "Child labor and coordination failures," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 469-476, August.
  10. Easterly, William, 2000. "the middle class consensus and economic development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2346, The World Bank.
  11. Murphy, Kevin M. & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Scholarly Articles 3606235, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "History versus Expectations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 651-67, May.
  13. Aghion, Philippe & Caroli, Eve & García-Peñalosa, Cecilia, 1999. "Inequality and Economic Growth: The Perspective of the New Growth Theories," Scholarly Articles 12502063, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Parente, Stephen L & Prescott, Edward C, 1994. "Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 298-321, April.
  15. Michael Kremer & Daniel Chen, 2000. "Income-distribution Dynamics with Endogenous Fertility," NBER Working Papers 7530, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Rauch, James E., 1991. "Modelling the informal sector formally," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 33-47, January.
  17. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-40, June.
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