January 2019

IZA DP No. 12068: Seeking Rent in the Informal Sector

Rent seeking within the vast informal segment of the developing world is a relatively underdexplored topic in the interface of labor market policies and public economics. Moreover, how rent seeking and corruption within the informal segment is affected by economic reforms targeted for the formal sector is rarely discussed in the literature. This paper fills the gap. We identify conditions under which economic reform in the formal segment will increase the rate of corruption or rent seeking in the informal sector and raise the pay-off for those involved in rent seeking activities. When formal sector contracts due to reforms, offsetting forces determine the magnitude of rent seeking in the informal sector. Thus, economic reforms may increase corruption instead of reducing it, as claimed previously.