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The demand for, and consequences of, formalization among informal firms in Sri Lanka

  • Suresh De Mel
  • David McKenzie
  • Christopher Woodruff

We conduct a field experiment in Sri Lanka providing informal firms incentives to formalize. Information about the registration process and reimbursement of direct costs has no effect. Payments equivalent to one-half to one month (alternatively, 2 months) of the median firm's profits leads to registration of around one-fifth (alternatively, one-half) of firms. Land ownership issues are the most common reason for not registering. Follow-up surveys 15 to 31 months later show higher mean profits, but largely in a few firms which grew rapidly. We find little evidence for other changes in behavior, but formalized firms express more trust in the state.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18019.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18019.

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Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Publication status: published as Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2013. "The Demand for, and Consequences of, Formalization among Informal Firms in Sri Lanka," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 122-50, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18019
Note: PR
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  1. Chang, Tai Hsieh & Peter, J- Klenow, 2007. "Misallocation and manufacturing TFP in China and India," MPRA Paper 35084, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Jun 2007.
  2. 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.
  3. Rafael La Porta & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 14520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bertrand, Marianne & Kramarz, Francis, 2002. "Does Entry Regulation Hinder Job Creation? Evidence from the French Retail Industry," IZA Discussion Papers 415, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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, September.
  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. McKenzie, David, 2011. "Beyond baseline and follow-up : the case for more t in experiments," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5639, The World Bank.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
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