Who are the Microenterprise Owners? Evidence from Sri Lanka on Tokman v. De Soto

35 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2008

See all articles by Suresh de Mel

Suresh de Mel

University of Peradeniya

David J. McKenzie

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Christopher M. Woodruff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2008

Abstract

Is the vast army of the self-employed in low income countries a source of employment generation? We use data from surveys in Sri Lanka to compare the characteristics of own account workers (non-employers) with wage workers and with owners of larger firms. We use a rich set of measures of background, ability, and attitudes, including lottery experiments measuring risk attitudes. Consistent with the ILO's views of the self employed (represented by Tokman), we find that 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the own account workers have characteristics which are more like wage workers than larger firm owners. This suggests the majority of the own account workers are unlikely to become employers. Using a two and a half year panel of enterprises, we show that the minority of own account workers who are more like larger firm owners are more likely to expand by adding paid employees. The analysis suggests that finance is not the sole constraint to growth of microenterprises, and provides an explanation for the low rates of growth of enterprises supported by microlending.

Keywords: entrepreneurship, self-employment, De Soto

JEL Classification: O17, L26

Suggested Citation

de Mel, Suresh and McKenzie, David John and Woodruff, Christopher, Who are the Microenterprise Owners? Evidence from Sri Lanka on Tokman v. De Soto (May 2008). IZA Discussion Paper No. 3511, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1139881 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0042-7092.2007.00700.x

Suresh De Mel (Contact Author)

University of Peradeniya ( email )

University of Peradeniya
Dept of Economics & Statistics
Peradeniya
Sri Lanka
+94 81 2392622 (Phone)

David John McKenzie

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Christopher Woodruff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States
858-534-0590 (Phone)
858-534-3939 (Fax)

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