DP16117 Earnings Inequality and Dynamics in the Presence of Informality: The Case of Brazil

Author(s): Niklas Engbom, Gustavo Gonzaga, Christian Moser, Roberta Olivieri
Publication Date: May 2021
Date Revised: November 2021
Keyword(s): Earnings Inequality, Earnings Mobility, Earnings Volatility, Informality
JEL(s): D31, D33, E24, E26, J31, J46, J62
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Development Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16117

Using rich administrative and household survey data, we document a series of new facts on earnings inequality and dynamics in a developing country with a large informal sector: Brazil. Since the mid-1990s, both inequality and volatility of earnings have declined significantly in Brazil's formal sector. Higher-order moments of the distribution of earnings innovations show cyclical movements in Brazil that are similar to those in developed countries like the US. Earnings mobility is comparatively high, especially at the bottom of the distribution. Compared with those in the formal sector, earnings in the informal sector are more volatile. Workers who switch between sectors experience earnings innovations that have a positive mean and are positively skewed when moving to the formal sector but have a negative mean and are negatively skewed when moving to the informal sector. Since the early 2000s, a secular shift of employment toward the less volatile formal sector has contributed to a decline in the economy-wide volatility of earnings.