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State legitimacy and the benefits of firm formalization

November 7th, 2016

Valentina Assenova and Olav Sorenson

Entrepreneurs in many emerging economies start their firm informally, without registering with the state. We examine how informality at the time of founding affected the growth and performance of 12,146 firms in 18 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Our findings indicate that entrepreneurs who registered their firms at founding enjoyed greater success, in terms of sales and employment. But these benefits varied widely across countries. Countries in which people perceive the government as being less corrupt, those in which they have greater trust in the courts, and those with lower levels of ethnic conflict had larger performance benefits associated with being formal. The benefits of firm formalization therefore appear to depend on the socio-political legitimacy of the state.

 

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