When you have to redo your literature review for a “revise and resubmit,” you know two things: first, the publishing process in economics is slow, and second, the evidence is accumulating fast in your subject matter. The former is what it is and the latter is good. Into the rapidly growing literature regarding the effects of cash transfers on sustained human capital accumulation for adolescent females comes this paper by Baird, McIntosh, and Özler (forthcoming in the Journal of Development Economics).
- To broaden and increase the tax base
- To enable firms to access the formal economy and help spur firm growth through the potential benefits of being formal (such as access to financial services and government contracts)
- To increase the sense of rule of law by having the default be that everyone is obeying the law
- To have firms provide information about themselves to the state, which can help the government better understand the structure of the economy and to better target business programs.
The most common way of trying to achieve these aims has been through regulatory reforms that make it easier for firms to formalize. This has taken the form of “one-stop-shops” which have been implemented in at least 115 countries and which enable firms to register both as a business and as a tax entity all at once. However, a number of randomized experiments that have followed such reforms have seen very few informal firms formalize. This raises the question of whether regulatory simplification alone is not enough, and whether trying to achieve all of the above four goals with one instrument causes none of them to be attained.
Separating business and tax registration, and an experiment in Malawi
In a new working paper (replication data) (joint with Francisco Campos), we conducted an experiment with informal firms in Malawi that aimed to test whether governments can bring firms into at least part of the formal system and thereby achieve at least some of the above goals, and whether firms need additional help to realize the benefits of becoming formal.
This is the fourteenth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
People are afraid of HIV. Moreover, people around the world are convinced that the virus is easier to get than it actually is. The median person thinks that if you have unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person a single time, you will get HIV for sure. The truth is that it’s not nearly that easy to get HIV – the medical literature estimates that the transmission rate is actually about 0.1% per sex act, or 10% per year.
This is number 9 in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
As HIV continues to spread in sub-Saharan Africa, so does stigma. Many go to great lengths to hide their HIV status, get tested at clinics far from home to avoid being seen, and put off medical care until it's much too late. This has devastating effects. While life-saving medication is now provided for free in most parts of Southern Africa, there are still over one million AIDS deaths every year. Reluctance to seek treatment also has a negative externality. Antiretroviral drugs slow the spread of HIV dramatically, but a “treatment for prevention” strategy won’t work if people don’t seek treatment.
What causes stigma? What can we do about it?
I am currently in Malawi rolling out a firm survey with my colleagues Francisco Campos and Manuela Bucciarelli. As we’ve gone through the enumerator selection and training this week and a pre-test of the survey, a number of observations have come up – some related to firm surveys in particular, some more general. In no particular order: