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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.

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

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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
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  1. Victor E. Tokman, 2007. "Modernizing the informal sector," Working Papers 42, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
  2. 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.
  3. Djankov, Simeon & La Porta, Rafael & López-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "The Regulation of Entry," CEPR Discussion Papers 2953, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," CeRP Working Papers 46, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  7. 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.
  8. Bosch, Mariano & Goni, Edwin & Maloney, William F., 2007. "The Determinants of Rising Informality in Brazil: Evidence from Gross Worker Flows," IZA Discussion Papers 2970, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Bruhn, Miriam, 2008. "License to sell : the effect of business registration reform on entrepreneurial activity in Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4538, The World Bank.
  12. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
  13. 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.
  14. 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).
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Landier, Augustin & Thesmar, David, 2003. "Financial Contracting with Optimistic Entrepreneurs: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3971, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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