Theses Doctoral

Essays in Macroeconomics and Informality

De Cicco Pereira, Gustavo Antonio

While the phenomenon of informality in labor markets is pervasive in many parts of the world, its interaction with the aggregate behavior of economies is not well understood. In this dissertation, I explore the connection between informality and the macroeconomy in two main ways. The first way is to augment a search-and-matching model of labor markets in the tradition of Mortensen and Pissarides (1994) with aggregate shocks and an informal sector. The second is to consider an Aiyagari (1994) setting in which the existence of an informal sector feeds back into the labor income risk and savings decisions of heterogeneous agents. The parameters of both models are chosen so as to match features of micro-data I obtain from Brazil. This dissertation is thus divided into three chapters: the first one presents the data and findings from the empirical exploration. The second chapter describes the model of informality over the business cycle and presents its results. The third chapter introduces the heterogeneous agents model with informality and the conclusions derived therefrom.

The first chapter divides the empirical analysis into two components. Firstly, I analyze how informality is distributed over education, income and occupational groups, and how formal-informal income differentials behave over these categories. I find that informality decreases in average income, and that the formal-informal income differential is higher among low income workers. The second component pertains to the evolution of informality over time. I show that, in the time period covered by the data, the rate of informality has a strongly cyclical pattern, which is mostly explained by cyclical variation in formal job creation.

In the second chapter, in co-authorship with Livio Maya, we show in a parsimonious model of business cycles and informal labor markets that the differential risk of formal and informal contracts plays a potentially important role in generating the patterns of job creation found in the data. The main finding is that generating substantial countercyclicality in the informality rate in our calibration requires the price of risk to be highly countercyclical.

In the third chapter, also in co-authorship with Livio Maya, we show the transition path of a policy designed to fight informality in a heterogeneous agents setting. The main finding is that while eliminating the informal sector makes the economy more productive and reduces unemployment in the long run, the short term impact is influenced by general equilibrium effects. In particular, unemployment increases in the short run due to the impact of the policy on interest rates. Moreover, the effects of such policy are sensitive to the assumptions on the destination of the extra tax revenues derived from increased formalization in the transition path.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Uribe, Martin
Schmitt-Grohe, Stephanie
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 8, 2021