Working Papers

How do minimum wages affect earnings inequality in countries with large informal sectors? I provide reduced-form evidence that the 2000s minimum wage hike in Brazil raised overall inequality by increasing inequality inside the informal sector. I develop a model where heterogeneous firms select into informality to investigate when and how raising the minimum wage can increase inequality. I calibrate the model to Brazil and find that, by generating substantial informality, the increase in the minimum wage raised overall inequality by 6.4%. These results suggest that movements into and out of the informal sector modulate the effects of formal labor legislation.

In many countries, the regulations governing public and private pension systems, hiring procedures, and job contracts differ. Public sector employees tend to have longer tenures and higher wages compared to workers in the private sector. As such, social security reforms can affect both retirement decisions and sectoral choices. We study the effects of social security reforms on retirement and sectoral behavior in an economy with multiple pension systems. We develop a general equilibrium life-cycle model with three sectors - private formal, private informal and public - and endogenous retirement. In a model calibrated to Brazil, we quantitatively assess the long-run effects of reforms being discussed and implemented across countries. Among them, we study the unification of pension systems and increasing the minimum retirement age. We find that these reforms affect the decision to apply to a public job, the profile of savings over the life cycle, and informality. In the long run, these reforms lead to higher output and capital, reduced informality, and average welfare gains. They also drastically reduce the social security deficit.

We investigate how trade shocks affect the allocation of labor across plants at the local labor market level. Using Brazil’s import liberalization as a quasi-natural experiment, we uncover a new margin for the gains from trade: the reallocation of labor from smaller to larger producers in the non-traded sector. We find that in response to liberalization, larger non-traded producers self-select into importing, expanding as they gain access to inputs from abroad. We then develop a parsimonious model of heterogeneous producers incorporating this mechanism. The theory is consistent with the empirical findings and show that reallocation among non-traded producers is welfare-enhancing. In contrast, this reallocation effect disappears when all nontraded producers make the same importing decision.

The Dynamics of Trade Integration and Fragmentation  in Latin America (forthcoming)
with Flavien Moreau

Despite progress in decreasing trade barriers, obstacles derived from poor infrastructure and inadequate governance still play an important role in limiting trade integration in Latin America (LAC). Closing half of the infrastructure gap between LAC and advanced economies could lift exports by 30 percent. Moreover, LAC is not well placed to benefit from lowering import tariffs relative to other EMDEs, particularly in the long run. Amid deepening global trade tensions, LAC is well placed to withstand a mild trade fragmentation scenario, in which trade barriers are erected only among large economies. However, the region’s output losses could be sizable in more extreme scenarios, where the global economy splinters into competing economic blocs and LAC loses access to important markets. Boosting trade, including regional trade, and putting in place policies that make LAC an attractive investment destination could pay a double dividend of lifting growth in the region while mitigating risks from global fragmentation. 

Policy Work