What happens when small firms formalize?

De Mel, McKenzie, and Woodruff continue their string of hugley interesting firm studies:

We conduct a field experiment in Sri Lanka providing informal firms incentives to formalize. Information about the registration process and reimbursement of direct costs has no effect. Payments equivalent to one-half to one month (alternatively, 2 months) of the median firm’s profits leads to registration of around one-fifth (alternatively, one-half) of firms. Land ownership issues are the most common reason for not registering.

Follow-up surveys 15 to 31 months later show higher mean profits, but largely in a few firms which grew rapidly. We find little evidence for other changes in behavior, but formalized firms express more trust in the state.