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The Demand for, and Consequences of, Formalization among Informal Firms in Sri Lanka

  • de Mel, Suresh

    ()

    (University of Peradeniya)

  • McKenzie, David

    ()

    (World Bank)

  • Woodruff, Christopher

    ()

    (University of Warwick)

The majority of firms in most developing countries are informal. We conducted a field experiment in Sri Lanka which provided incentives for informal firms to formalize. Offering only information about the registration process and reimbursement for direct registration costs had no impact on formalization. Adding payments equivalent to one-half to one month's profits for the median firm leads to registration of around one-fifth of firms. A larger payment equivalent to two month's median profits induces half of the firms to register. Among the firms not registering after being offered this larger incentive, many faced issues related to ownership of land. Three follow-up surveys at 15 to 31 months after the intervention measure the impact formalizing has on these firms. Although mean profits increase, this appears largely due to the experiences of a few firms which grew rapidly, with most firms experiencing no increase in income as a result of formalizing. We also find little evidence for most of the channels through which formalization is hypothesized to benefit firms, although formalized firms do advertise more. Finally, formalizing is found to result in a large increase in trust in the state.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6442.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2013, 5 (2), 122-50
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6442
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  1. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
  2. Marianne Bertrand & Francis Kramarz, 2002. "Does Entry Regulation Hinder Job Creation? Evidence From The French Retail Industry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1369-1413, November.
  3. McKenzie, David & Seynabou Sakho, Yaye, 2010. "Does it pay firms to register for taxes? The impact of formality on firm profitability," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 15-24, January.
  4. David Kaplan & Eduardo Piedra & Enrique Seira, 2007. "Are Burdensome Registration Procedures an Important Barrier on Firm Creation? Evidence from Mexico," Working Papers 0701, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.
  5. Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Galiani & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2007. "The Formation of Beliefs: Evidence from the Allocation of Land Titles to Squatters," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 209-241, 02.
  6. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J Klenow, 2008. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," 2008 Meeting Papers 121, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  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. Rafael La Porta & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 14520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2934, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Guillermo E. Perry & William F. Maloney & Omar S. Arias & Pablo Fajnzylber & Andrew D. Mason & Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi, 2007. "Informality : Exit and Exclusion," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6730.
  11. Kaplan, David S. & Piedra, Eduardo & Seira, Enrique, 2011. "Entry regulation and business start-ups: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1501-1515.
  12. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Measuring microenterprise profits: Must we ask how the sausage is made?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 19-31, January.
  13. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Maloney, William F. & Montes-Rojas, Gabriel V., 2011. "Does formality improve micro-firm performance? Evidence from the Brazilian SIMPLES program," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 262-276, March.
  14. Klapper, Leora & Laeven, Luc & Rajan, Raghuram, 2006. "Entry regulation as a barrier to entrepreneurship," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 591-629, December.
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