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Intergenerational transmission of self-employed status in the informal sector: a constrained choice or better income prospects? Evidence from seven West-African countries


  • Laure Pasquier-Doumer

    () (DIAL, IRD, Paris)


Social reproduction is the highest for self-employed as shown by an extensive literature from developed and developing countries. Very few studies however document the reason for this high intergenerational correlation of the self-employed status. The rare studies that have been done concern the US and show that children of self-employed benefit from an advantage when they are themselves self-employed. The purpose of this paper is to test if the second-generation of self-employed has an advantage related to the first-generation in the African context. It aims at highlighting the debate on firms heterogeneity in the informal sector, and seeks to contribute to understand the intergenerational transmission of inequalities. Using 1-2-3 surveys collected in the commercial capitals of seven West African countries in 2001-2002, this paper shows that the second-generation of informal selfemployed does not have better outcomes than the first one, except when they choose a familial tradition in the same sector of activity. Thus, in the African context, having a self-employed father does not provide any advantage in terms of profit or sales and is not sufficient for the transmission of valuable skills. On the other hand, informal entrepreneurs who have chosen a specific enterprise based on familial tradition have a competitive advantage. Their competitive advantage is partly explained by the transmission of enterprise-specific human capital, acquired through experiences in the same type of activity and by the transmission of social capital. _________________________________ Très peu d’études documentent les raisons de la très forte reproduction sociale observée parmi les entrepreneurs, aussi bien dans les pays développés que dans les pays en développement. Les rares études, portant sur les E.U, montrent que les enfants d’entrepreneurs ont de meilleures performances quand ils sont eux-mêmes entrepreneurs que les enfants de salariés. Cet article teste si ce résultat se vérifie dans le contexte du secteur informel ouest-africain et cherche à en comprendre les raisons. Il vise par conséquent à éclairer le débat portant sur l’hétérogénéité des entreprises informelles, en identifiant des facteurs de succès, mais il cherche aussi à mieux comprendre les mécanismes à l’origine de la transmission intergénérationnelles des inégalités en Afrique. En se basant sur les enquêtes 1-2-3 collectées dans sept capitale ouest-africaines, cet article montre que la seconde génération d’entrepreneurs informels ne bénéficient pas d’un avantage comparatif, sauf s’ils bénéficient d’une tradition familiale dans leur secteur d’activité. Ainsi, dans le contexte ouest-africain, avoir un père entrepreneur ne suffit pas à la transmission de compétences managériales. En revanche, les entrepreneurs qui ont choisi leur secteur d’activité par tradition familiale ont un avantage qui s’explique principalement par la transmission de compétences spécifiques au secteur d’activité et par la transmission d’un capital social.

Suggested Citation

  • Laure Pasquier-Doumer, 2011. "Intergenerational transmission of self-employed status in the informal sector: a constrained choice or better income prospects? Evidence from seven West-African countries," Working Papers DT/2011/09, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
  • Handle: RePEc:dia:wpaper:dt201109

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:dau:papers:123456789/12203 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Nordman, Christophe J. & Pasquier-Doumer, Laure, 2015. "Transitions in a West African labour market: The role of family networks," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 74-85.
    3. Björn Nilsson, 2017. "The School-to-work transition in developing countries," Working Papers DT/2017/07, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    4. Huu Chi Nguyen & Christophe Nordman, 2014. "Household entrepreneurship and social networks:panel data evidence from Vietnam," Working Papers DT/2014/22, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    5. Christophe Nordman & Julia Vaillant, 2017. "Inputs, Gender Roles or Sharing Norms? Assessing the Gender Performance Gap Among Informal Entrepreneurs in Madagascar," Working Papers hal-01618238, HAL.
    6. Christophe Nordman & Julia Vaillant, 2013. "Inputs, Gender Roles or Sharing Norms? Assessing the Gender Performance Gap Among Informal Entrepreneurs in Madagascar," Working Papers DT/2013/15, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    7. repec:dau:papers:123456789/14463 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Radchenko, Natalia, 2014. "Heterogeneity in Informal Salaried Employment: Evidence from the Egyptian Labor Market Survey," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 169-188.
    9. Deguilhem, Thibaud & Berrou, Jean-Philippe & Combarnous, François, 2017. "Using your ties to get a worse job? The differential effects of social networks on quality of employment: Evidence from Colombia," MPRA Paper 78628, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Mboutchouang, Vincent De Paul & Kenneck, Joseph Massil & Mbenga Bindop, Kunz Modeste, 2013. "Transmission Intergénérationelle de l’Entrepreneuriat et Performance des Unités de Production Informelles au Cameroun," MPRA Paper 50133, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Aug 2013.

    More about this item


    Informal sector; entrepreneurship; intergenerational link; human capital; Secteur informel; entreprenariat; lien intergénérationnel; capital humain.;

    JEL classification:

    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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