Unveiling the intellectual structure of informality: Insights from the socioeconomic literature

Nelson Alfonso Gómez-Cruz, David Anzola, Aglaya Batz Liñeiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the socioeconomic sphere, the concept of informality has been used to address issues pertaining to economic dynamics, institutions, work, poverty, settlements, the use of space, development, and sustainability, among others. This thematic range has given way to multiple discourses, definitions and approaches that mostly focus on a single phenomenon and conform to traditional disciplinary lines, making it difficult to fully understand informality and adequately inform policymaking. In this article, we carried out a multilevel co-word analysis with the purpose of unveiling the intellectual structure of socioeconomic informality. Co-occurring document keywords were used, initially, to delimit the scope of the socioeconomic dimension of informality (macro level) and, later, to identify its main concepts, themes (meso level) and sub-themes (micro level). Our results show that there is a corpus of research on socioeconomic informality that is sufficiently differentiable from other types of informality. This corpus, at the same time, can be divided into six major themes and 31 sub-themes related, more prominently, to the informal economy, informal settlements and informal institutions. Looking forward, the analysis suggests, an increasing focus on context and on the experience of multiple ‘informalities’ has the potential, on the one hand, to reveal links that help unify this historically fragmented corpus and, on the other hand, to give informality a meaning and identity that go beyond the traditional formal-informal dualism.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0297577
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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