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.
We present a model of investment hangover motivated by the Great Recession. Overbuilding of durable capital such as housing requires a reallocation of productive resources to other sectors, which is facilitated by a reduction in the interest rate. When monetary policy is constrained, overbuilding induces a demand-driven recession with limited reallocation and low output. Investment in other capital initially declines due to low demand, but it later booms and induces an asymmetric recovery in which the overbuilt sector is left behind. Welfare can be improved by expost policies that stimulate investment (including in overbuilt capital), and ex-ante policies that restrict investment.
Recent research has documented large differences among countries in ownership concentration in publicly traded "rms, in the breadth and depth of capital markets, in dividend policies, and in the access of "rms to external "nance. A common element to the explanations of these di!erences is how well investors, both shareholders and creditors, are protected by law from expropriation by the managers and controlling shareholders of firms. We describe the di!erences in laws and the e!ectiveness of their enforcement across countries, discuss the possible origins of these di!erences, summarize their consequences, and assess potential strategies of corporate governance reform. We argue that the legal approach is a more fruitful way to understand corporate governance and its reform than the conventional distinction between bank-centered and market-centered financial systems
We present a model of the effects of legal protection of minority shareholders and of cash-flow ownership by a controlling shareholder on the valuation of firms. We then test this model using a sample of 539 large firms from 27 wealthy economies. Consistent with the model, we find evidence of higher valuation of firms in countries with better protection of minority shareholders and in firms with higher cash-flow ownership by the controlling shareholder.
We present a simple model of an entrepreneur going public in an environment with poor legal protection of outside shareholders. The model incorporates elements of Becker’s (J. Political Econ. 106 (1968) 172) ‘‘crime and punishment’’ framework into a corporate finance environment of Jensen and Meckling (J. Financial Econ. 3 (1976) 305). We examine the entrepreneur’s decision and the market equilibrium. The model is consistent with a number of empirical regularities concerning the relation between investor protection and corporate finance. It also sheds light on the patterns of capital flows between rich and poor countries and on the politics of reform of investor protection.
In the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, judicial checks and balances are often seen as crucial guarantees of freedom. Hayek distinguishes two ways in which the judiciary provides such checks and balances: judicial independence and constitutional review. We create a new database of constitutional rules in 71 countries that reflect these provisions. We find strong support for the proposition that both judicial independence and constitutional review are associated with greater freedom. Consistent with theory, judicial independence ac- counts for some of the positive effect of common-law legal origin on measures of economic freedom. The results point to significant benefits of the Anglo-American system of government for freedom.
Following legal realists, we model the causes and consequences of trial judges exercising discretion in finding facts in a trial. We identify two motivations for the exercise of such discretion: judicial policy preferences and judges’ aversion to reversal on appeal when the law is unsettled. In the latter case, judges exercising fact discretion find the facts that fit the settled precedents, even when they have no policy preferences. In a standard model of a tort, judicial fact discretion leads to setting of damages unpredictable from true facts of the case but predictable from knowledge of judicial preferences, distorts the number and severity of accidents, and generates welfare losses. It also encourages litigants to take extreme positions in court and raises the incidence of litigation relative to settlement, especially in new and complex disputes for which the law is unsettled.