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The Anatomy of Behavioral Responses to Social Assistance when Informal Employment is High

Author

Listed:
  • Marcelo Bergolo

    (Universidad de la República (Uruguay). Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y de Administración. Instituto de Economí­a)

  • Guillermo Cruces

    (CEDLAS-UNLP)

Abstract

The disincentive effects of social assistance programs on registered (or formal) employment are a first order policy concern in developing and middle income countries. Means tests determine eligibility with respect to some income threshold, and governments can only verify earnings from registered employment. The loss of benefit at some level of formal earnings is an implicit tax – a notch – that results in a strong disincentive for formal employment, and there is extensive evidence on its effects. We study an income-tested program in Uruguay and extend this literature by developing an anatomy of the behavioral responses to this program and by establishing its welfare implications in full. Our identification strategy is based on a sharp discontinuity in the program's eligibility rule. We rely on information on the universe of applicants to the program for the period 2004-2012 (about 400,000 individuals) from the program's records, from administrative data on registered employment from the social security administration, and from a complementary follow-up survey with information on informal work. We construct the anatomy of the program's effects along four dimensions. First, we establish that, as predicted by the theory, beneficiaries respond to the program's incentives by reducing their levels of registered employment by about 8 percentage points. Second, we find substantial heterogeneity in these effects: the program induces a larger reduction of formal employment for individuals with a medium probability to be a registered employee, suggesting some form of segmentation – those with a low propensity to work formally do not respond to the financial incentives of the program, probably because they have limited opportunities in the labor market to begin with. Third, the follow-up survey allows us to establish that the fall in registered employment is due to a larger extent (about two thirds) to an increase in unregistered employment, and to a lesser extent (about one third) to a shift towards non-employment. Fourth, we find an elasticity of participation in registered employment of about 1.7. These results imply a deadweight loss from the behavioral responses to the program of about 3.2% of total registered labor income.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcelo Bergolo & Guillermo Cruces, 2016. "The Anatomy of Behavioral Responses to Social Assistance when Informal Employment is High," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 16-05, Instituto de Economia - IECON.
  • Handle: RePEc:ulr:wpaper:dt-05-16
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    Cited by:

    1. Hartley, Robert Paul & Lamarche, Carlos, 2018. "Behavioral responses and welfare reform: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 135-151.
    2. Liepmann, Hannah & Pignatti, Clemente, 2021. "Welfare Effects of Unemployment Benefits When Informality Is High," IZA Discussion Papers 14601, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Bergolo, Marcelo & Galván, Estefanía, 2018. "Intra-household Behavioral Responses to Cash Transfer Programs. Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 100-118.
    4. McKay Andy & Pirttilä Jukka & Schimanski Caroline, 2018. "The Elasticity of Formal Work in African Countries," Working Papers 1820, Tampere University, School of Management and Business, Economics.
    5. Marisa Bucheli & Maximo Rossi & Florencia Amábile, 2018. "Inequality and fiscal policies in Uruguay by race," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 16(3), pages 389-411, September.
    6. Bergolo, M. & Cruces, G., 2021. "The anatomy of behavioral responses to social assistance when informal employment is high," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    7. Joan Vilá, 2019. "Respuestas en los ingresos frente a un programa de transferencias monetarias: evidencia de un notch a partir de registros administrativos de Uruguay," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 19-07, Instituto de Economia - IECON.
    8. Bryan, Gharad & Chowdhury, Shyamal & Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq & Morten, Melanie & Smits, Joeri, 2021. "Encouragement and Distortionary Effects of Conditional Cash Transfers," IZA Discussion Papers 14326, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Andy McKay & Jukka Pirttilä & Caroline Schimanski, 2019. "The tax elasticity of formal work in African countries," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-69, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    10. Bosch, Mariano & Schady, Norbert, 2019. "The effect of welfare payments on work: Regression discontinuity evidence from Ecuador," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 17-27.
    11. Zhao, Fang & Xu, Jiayi & Fang, Guanfu, 2022. "The heterogeneous effects of employment-based pension policies on employment: Evidence from urban China," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    12. Ivone Perazzo & Analía Rivero & Andrea Vigorito, 2021. "¿Qué sabemos sobre los programas de transferencias no contributivas en Uruguay? Una síntesis de resultados de investigación disponibles sobre el PANES, AFAM-PE y TUS," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 21-33, Instituto de Economia - IECON.

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    Keywords

    welfare policy; labor supply; registered employment; labor informality;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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