Efficient informal trade: Theory and experimental evidence from the Cape Town taxi market

Informal sectors in developing countries are often thought of as responses to rigid and cumbersome market regulations. This paper studies informal trade as a first-best outcome and proposes rigid regulations can be necessary to achieve efficiency even though they are always sidestepped. The key assumption is that the regulations define the trading parties’ fall-back position in case the informal bargaining process breaks down. The author sets up a field experiment to test the model’s mechanisms in the Cape Town market for metered taxis. Consistent with the model, the paper finds that sidestepping the regulations increase cost efficiency (taxis take the shortest route). The price is however unaffected, suggesting informal bargaining leads to a Pareto improvement.

Full article by Journal of Development Economics via Science Direct (subscription required).

Photo credit: El Taxi, Longstreet by Thom Sanders


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Elsevier
Year 2015
Author(s) Niklas Bengtsson
Other Numbers 115:85-98
DOI 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2015.02.003
Read older posts from this section

Leave a Reply