Informality and Development

30 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2014 Last revised: 30 Sep 2014

See all articles by Rafael La Porta

Rafael La Porta

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Andrei Shleifer

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: June 2014

Abstract

We establish five facts about the informal economy in developing countries. First, it is huge, reaching about half of the total in the poorest countries. Second, it has extremely low productivity compared to the formal economy: informal firms are typically small, inefficient, and run by poorly educated entrepreneurs. Third, although avoidance of taxes and regulations is an important reason for informality, the productivity of informal firms is too low for them to thrive in the formal sector. Lowering registration costs neither brings many informal firms into the formal sector, nor unleashes economic growth. Fourth, the informal economy is largely disconnected from the formal economy. Informal firms rarely transition to formality, and continue their existence, often for years or even decades, without much growth or improvement. Fifth, as countries grow and develop, the informal economy eventually shrinks, and the formal economy comes to dominate economic life. These five facts are most consistent with dual models of informality and economic development.

Suggested Citation

La Porta, Rafael and Shleifer, Andrei, Informality and Development (June 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20205, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2448910

Rafael La Porta (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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Andrei Shleifer

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-5046 (Phone)
617-496-1708 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/~ashleife/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

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1000 Brussels
Belgium

HOME PAGE: http://www.ecgi.org

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