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Urbanization and (in)formalization

  • Ghani, Ejaz
  • Kanbur, Ravi

Two of the great stylized predictions of development theory, and two of the great expectations of policy makers as indicators of progress in development, are inexorable urbanization and inexorable formalization. Urbanization is indeed happening, beyond the"tipping point"where half the world's population is now urban. However, formalization has slowed down significantly in the past quarter century. Indeed, informality has been increasing. This disconnect raises a number of questions for development analysis and development policy. Is the link between urbanization and formalization more complex than what had been thought? What does this mean for policy? The first core section of this paper asks what exactly is meant by formality and informality. The second core section turns to processes of urbanization and asks how these processes intersect with and interact with the incentives to formalize. The paper examines why cities attract the informal sector and the role that urbanization plays in growth and job creation through both the formal and informal sectors. Cities generate agglomeration benefits in the informal sector, perhaps more so than for the formal sector. The third core section is devoted to policy. At the current conjuncture, agglomeration benefits make a strong case for urbanization as an integral part of development strategy, but concerns about jobless growth and about urban poverty require a focus on the informal sector.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6374.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2013
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6374
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  1. Gundogan, Naci & Bicerli, Mustafa Kemal, 2009. "Urbanization and Labor Market Informality in Developing Countries," MPRA Paper 18247, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Duranton, Gilles & Overman, Henry G, 2006. "Exploring the Detailed Location Patters of UK Manufacturing Industries using Microgeographic Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 5858, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Dani Rodrik, 2011. "Unconditional Convergence," NBER Working Papers 17546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Desmet, Klaus & Ghani, Ejaz & O'Connell, Stephen D & Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban, 2013. "The Spatial Development of India," CEPR Discussion Papers 9433, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Ejaz Ghani & William R. Kerr & Stephen D. O'Connell, 2013. "Local industrial structures and female entrepreneurship in India," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(6), pages 929-964, November.
  7. Auriol, Emmanuelle & Warlters, Michael, 2005. "Taxation base in developing countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(4), pages 625-646, April.
  8. Ejaz Ghani & William R. Kerr & Stephen D. O'Connell, 2011. "Spatial Determinants of Entrepreneurship in India," NBER Working Papers 17514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Mercedes Delgado & Michael E. Porter & Scott Stern, 2010. "Clusters and entrepreneurship," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(4), pages 495-518, July.
  10. Matias Busso & Maria Victoria Fazio & Santiago Levy Algazi, 2012. "(In)Formal and (Un)Productive: The Productivity Costs of Excessive Informality in Mexico," Research Department Publications 4789, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  11. Zephyr, 2010. "The city," City, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1-2), pages 154-155, February.
  12. Keen, Michael & Mintz, Jack, 2004. "The optimal threshold for a value-added tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 559-576, March.
  13. J. Vernon Henderson, 2010. "Cities And Development," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 515-540.
  14. Overman, Henry G. & Venables, Anthnony J., 2010. "Evolving City Systems," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Working Paper W, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
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