IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Who Are the Microenterprise Owners? Evidence from Sri Lanka on Tokman v. de Soto

  • de Mel, Suresh


    (University of Peradeniya)

  • McKenzie, David


    (World Bank)

  • Woodruff, Christopher


    (University of Warwick)

Is the vast army of the self-employed in low income countries a source of employment generation? We use data from surveys in Sri Lanka to compare the characteristics of own account workers (non-employers) with wage workers and with owners of larger firms. We use a rich set of measures of background, ability, and attitudes, including lottery experiments measuring risk attitudes. Consistent with the ILO’s views of the self employed (represented by Tokman), we find that 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the own account workers have characteristics which are more like wage workers than larger firm owners. This suggests the majority of the own account workers are unlikely to become employers. Using a two and a half year panel of enterprises, we show that the minority of own account workers who are more like larger firm owners are more likely to expand by adding paid employees. The analysis suggests that finance is not the sole constraint to growth of microenterprises, and provides an explanation for the low rates of growth of enterprises supported by microlending.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3511.

in new window

Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: May 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Josh Lerner and Antoinette Schoar (eds.) International Differences in Entrepreneurship, NBER, 2010
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3511
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to capital in microenterprises : evidence from a field experiment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4230, The World Bank.
  2. Simeon Djankov & Rafael LaPorta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, . "The Regulation of Entry," Working Paper 19462, Harvard University OpenScholar.
  3. Maloney, William F, 1999. "Does Informality Imply Segmentation in Urban Labor Markets? Evidence from Sectoral Transitions in Mexico," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 275-302, May.
  4. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2011. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," NBER Working Papers 17078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bosch, Mariano & Goni, Edwin & Maloney, William, 2007. "The determinants of rising informality in Brazil : Evidence from gross worker flows," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4375, The World Bank.
  6. Bosch, Mariano & Maloney, William, 2007. "Comparative analysis of labor market dynamics using markov processes : an application to informality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4429, The World Bank.
  7. 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.
  8. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
  9. Erik Hurst & Annamaria Lusardi, 2004. "Liquidity Constraints, Household Wealth, and Entrepreneurship," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 319-347, April.
  10. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger & Ron S. Jarmin & C. J. Krizan & Javier Miranda & Alfred Nucci & Kristin Sandusky, 2007. "Measuring the Dynamics of Young and Small Businesses: Integrating the Employer and Nonemployer Universes," NBER Working Papers 13226, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. repec:oup:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:4:p:1329-1372 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Simeon Djankov & Edward Miguel & Yingyi Qian & Gerard Roland & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2005. "Who are Russia’s entrepreneurs?," Working Papers w0048, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  13. Fields, Gary S., 1975. "Rural-urban migration, urban unemployment and underemployment, and job-search activity in LDCs," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 165-187, June.
  14. Victor E. Tokman, 2007. "Modernizing the informal sector," Working Papers 42, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
  15. Landier, Augustin & Thesmar, David, 2003. "Financial Contracting with Optimistic Entrepreneurs: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3971, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Blanchflower, David G & Oswald, Andrew J, 1998. "What Makes an Entrepreneur?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 26-60, January.
  17. Thomas Dunn & Douglas Holtz-Eakin, 1996. "Financial Capital, Human Capital, and the Transition to Self-Employment:Evidence from Intergenerational Links," NBER Working Papers 5622, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Evans, David S & Jovanovic, Boyan, 1989. "An Estimated Model of Entrepreneurial Choice under Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 808-27, August.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3511. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.