What causes firms to hide output? The determinants of informality

Era Dabla-Norris, Mark Gradstein, Gabriela Inchauste

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


In many developing countries, a significant part of economic activity takes place in the informal sector. Earlier work has examined the determinants of the size of the informal sector, focusing separately on factors such as tax and regulation burden, financial market development, and the quality of the legal system. We revisit this issue by using an integrated data set which contains information on all these aspects. Building on a simple analytical framework, we test the channels affecting the degree of informality. We find that the quality of the legal framework is crucially important in determining the size of the informal sector, whereas the significance of taxes, regulations, and financial constraints is reduced in the context of a well functioning legal system, consistent with the presented model. Additionally, firm size is negatively correlated with the propensity to go informal; finance constraints tend to induce informality among smaller firms but not among large firms, whereas legal obstacles induce informality among larger firms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Development Economics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2008


  • Informal sector
  • Legal system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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