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The economics of the informal sector : a simple model and some empirical evidence from Latin America

  • Loayza, Norman A.

The author presents the view that informal economies arise when governments impose excessive taxes and regulations that they are unable to enforce. The author studies the determinants and effects of the informal sector using an endogenous growth model whose production technology depends essentially on congestable public services. In this model, changes (in both policy parameters and the quality of government institutions) that promote an increase in the relative size of the informal economy will also generate areduction in the rate of economic growth. Using data from Latin American countries in the early 1990's, the author tests some of the model's implications and estimates the informal sector's size in these countries --identifying the size of the informal sector to latent variables for which multiple causes and indicators exist. The results suggest that: the size of the informal sector depends positively on proxies for tax burden and restrictions on the labor market; it depends negatively on a proxy for the quality of government institutions; and an increase in the size of the informal sector hurts growth by reducing the availability of public services for everyone in the economy, and by increasing the number of activities that use some existing pubic services less efficiently or not at all.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1727.

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Date of creation: 28 Feb 1997
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1727
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