Informal Economy

Informal enterprises are a powerful global economic force that affects billions of people, especially in poor countries. The presence of these cash-only exchange systems is apparent in the mega cities of Africa or South Asia where millions of people, caught in vicious cycles of poverty and powerlessness, struggle to survive by hawking single cigarettes, cheap watches, and other goods. While these legal but informal systems, known as the “informal economy,” are less visible in the United States, workers across the country have increasingly engaged in the informal economy over the past three decades.

From 2002 to 2005, BOI explored the potential link between the informal economy and microenterprise development programs. Could informal entrepreneurs be potential new clients for microenterprise services? What would be required to help them grow their “after hours” jobs into licensed operations or income-generating businesses? BOI’s research aimed to answer these questions and more, increasing understanding of how microenterprises operate in the informal economy and identifying implications for both practice and policy.

Learn more about our findings in the publications below.