Firms in the developing world exhibit much flatter life-cycle dynamics compared to firms in developed countries. This paper examines the role of demand constraints in limiting the growth of small and medium firms in Brazil. We test whether firms that win government procurement contracts grow more compared to firms that compete for these contracts but do not win. We assemble a comprehensive data set combining matched employer-employee data for the universe of formal firms in Brazil with the universe of federal government procurement contracts. Exploiting a quasi-experimental design, we find that winning at least one contract in a given quarter increases firm growth by 2.2 percentage points over that quarter, with 93% of the new hires coming from either unemployment or the informal sector. These effects also persist well beyond the length of the contracts. Part of this persistence comes from firms participating and wining more future auctions, as well as penetrating other markets.
This paper tests whether uncertainty about future rainfall affects farmers’ decision-making through cognitive load. Behavioral theories predict that rainfall risk could impose a psychological tax on farmers, leading to material consequences at all times and across all states of nature, even within decisions unrelated to consumption smoothing, and even when negative rainfall shocks do not materialize down the line. Using a novel technology to run lab experiments in the field, we combine recent rainfall shocks and survey experiments to test the effects of rainfall risk on farmers’ cognition, and find that it decreases farmers’ attention, memory and impulse control, and increases their susceptibility to a variety of behavioral biases. In theory, insurance could mitigate those effects by alleviating the material consequences of rainfall risk. To test this hypothesis, we randomly assign offers of an index insurance product, and find that it does not affect farmers’ cognitive load. These results suggest that farmers’ anxiety might be relatively difficult to alleviate.