Skill differentiation between formal and informal employment

Enlinson Mattos (São Paulo School of Economics, Fundação Getulio Vargas, São Paulo, Brazil)
Laudo M. Ogura (Department of Economics, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Economic Studies

ISSN: 0144-3585

Publication date: 25 September 2009



The purpose of this paper is to examine the existence of skill differentiation between formal and informal labor markets.


First, a theoretical model is developed under the assumption that concealment of production is increasingly costly for informal firms. Second, using data on the Brazilian self‐employed economy, two methods are utilized to compare earnings in the formal versus the informal economy: propensity score and instrumental variable (IV) methods. For the IV estimations, state‐level variables are used as instruments for individual's decisions. In addition, the effect of schooling on formality choice is analyzed.


The theoretical model implies that more productive firms tend to operate formally and the proportion of workers employed by formal firms is larger for higher skilled workers. In the empirical analysis, it is found that formal firms are more productive than informal firms, controlling for workers' characteristics, and that higher workers' skill increase the probability of formal operation, as predicted by the theoretical model.


The paper provides an original theoretical model of skill differentiation in labor markets and empirically evaluates the implications of the model.



Mattos, E. and Ogura, L.M. (2009), "Skill differentiation between formal and informal employment", Journal of Economic Studies, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 461-480.

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