Surveys of Informal Firms in Belo Horizonte 2011-2012
Informal Sector Survey [hh/iss]
World Bank researchers with the support from local government of Minas Gerais conducted a field experiment to test which state actions work in getting informal firms to register. Brazil began a process of simplification of firm registration in 1996 with the introduction of the SIMPLES tax system which consolidated multiple taxes and contributions into a single payment, and also lowered the tax burden on small firms. Within Minas Gerais, the Minas Fácil service was started in 2005 with the purpose of additionally reducing the number of procedures and time taken to start a business. Minas Fácil is a one-stop-shop system, where firms obtain municipal, state, and federal tax registrations simultaneously instead of having to request these from separate offices.
A listing survey was used to identify potentially informal firms, which were then randomized into four treatment groups and a control group. Survey data revealing a lack of knowledge about how to formalize motivated the first treatment, which was to provide information about how to register by means of a brochure and a dedicated helpline. A second treatment coupled this information with an exemption in the registration fees and free use of mandatory accounting services for a year to test if reducing registration costs would induce formalization. The third treatment randomly assigned municipal inspectors to firms, to see whether increased enforcement would get firms to formalize. The final treatment consists of having a neighboring firm visited by an inspector, to test whether there is a spillover impact of inspection on the formalization behavior of other firms.
The baseline survey took place between May and August 2011. A very short phone survey of firms selected for the communication and free cost treatments was carried out between April 10 and April 18, 2012. The full follow-up survey consisted of an in-person survey fielded between July and September 2012.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
- informal firms
- v01: Edited, anonymous dataset for public distribution.
- Business characteristics,
- Business practices,
- Financial information and loans,
- Assets, income, expenses and profit,
- Education and experience,
- Appearance (observations from interviewers)
Belo Horizonte - the capital of Minas Gerais state.
Producers and sponsors
Gustavo Henrique de Andrade
Governo do Estado de Minas Gerais
In early 2011 researchers conducted a listing survey of more than 10,000 businesses in 600 census blocks of Belo Horizonte. These businesses were then matched against a list of registered firms, with those that could not be matched comprising a sample of 7,852 potentially informal firms. These firms were then randomized into five different groups: control firms, communication treatment, free cost + accountant treatment, inspection treatment, indirect inspector treatment.
Detailed information about listing and sampling procedures is available in "A Helping Hand or the Long Arm of the Law? Experimental evidence on what governments can do to formalize firms" (p.11-15) in external documents.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Data Collection Notes
To conduct the field experiment, researchers randomized informal firms into five different groups:
1. Control Firms: 201 census blocks in Belo Horizonte, containing 2,810 firms were the control group and received no intervention.
2. Communication Treatment: 331 firms were given information about how to register and a helpline to call.
3. Free Cost + Accountant Treatment: 328 firms were given information about how to register, had approximately US$200 in registration fees waived, and offered one year of free (mandatory) accounting services.
4. Inspection Treatment: 577 firms were assigned to receive a visit from a municipal inspector, who would check proof of a municipal license, and follow-up if they did not have one.
5. Indirect Inspector Treatment: 593 firms in the same census blocks as the inspection treatment firms were used to test whether having a neighboring firm inspected has spillover impacts.
Use of the dataset must be acknowledged using a citation which would include:
- the Identification of the Primary Investigator
- the title of the survey (including country, acronym and year of implementation)
- the survey reference number
- the source and date of download.
David McKenzie, World Bank; Miriam Bruhn, World Bank. Surveys of Informal Firms in Belo Horizonte (SIFBH) 2011-2012, Ref. BRA_2011_SIFBH_v01_M. Dataset downloaded from [URL] on [date].
Disclaimer and copyrights
The user of the data acknowledges that the original collector of the data, the authorized distributor of the data, and the relevant funding agency bear no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses.