IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Size, Trend, and Policy Implications of the Underground Economy


  • Renzo Orsi

    (University of Bologna)

  • Davide Raggi

    (University of Bologna)

  • Francesco Turino

    (University of Alicante)


We study the underground economy within a dynamic and stochastic general equilibrium framework. Our model combines limited tax enforcement with an otherwise standard two-sector neoclassical stochastic growth model. The Bayesian estimation of the model based on Italian data provides evidence in favor of an important underground sector in Italy, with a size that has increased steadily over the whole sample period. We show that this pattern is due to a steady increase in taxation. Fiscal policy experiments suggest that a moderate tax cut, along with a stronger effort in the monitoring process, causes a sizeable reduction in the size of the underground economy and provides a positive stimulus for the regular economy. Both of these effects jointly increase total fiscal revenues. (Copyright: Elsevier)

Suggested Citation

  • Renzo Orsi & Davide Raggi & Francesco Turino, 2014. "Size, Trend, and Policy Implications of the Underground Economy," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(3), pages 417-436, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:issued:12-217
    DOI: 10.1016/

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full texts is restricted to ScienceDirect subscribers and institutional members. See for details.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Justiniano, Alejandro & Primiceri, Giorgio E. & Tambalotti, Andrea, 2010. "Investment shocks and business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 132-145, March.
    2. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde & Juan F. Rubio-Ramírez, 2007. "Estimating Macroeconomic Models: A Likelihood Approach," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(4), pages 1059-1087.
    3. Amaral, Pedro S. & Quintin, Erwan, 2006. "A competitive model of the informal sector," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1541-1553, October.
    4. Ingram, Beth F. & Kocherlakota, Narayana R. & Savin, N. E., 1997. "Using theory for measurement: An analysis of the cyclical behavior of home production," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 435-456, December.
    5. Canova, Fabio & Sala, Luca, 2009. "Back to square one: Identification issues in DSGE models," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(4), pages 431-449, May.
    6. Antunes, Antonio R. & Cavalcanti, Tiago V. de V., 2007. "Start up costs, limited enforcement, and the hidden economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 203-224, January.
    7. Marco Del Negro & Frank Schorfheide, 2006. "How good is what you've got? DSGE-VAR as a toolkit for evaluating DSGE models," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q 2, pages 21-37.
    8. Francesco Busato & Bruno Chiarini, 2013. "Steady State Laffer Curve with the Underground Economy," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(5), pages 608-632, September.
    9. Mathias Trabandt & Harald Uhlig, 2006. "How Far Are We From The Slippery Slope? The Laffer Curve Revisited," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2006-023, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    10. Juan Carlos Conesa Roca & Carlos Díaz Moreno & José Enrique Galdón Sánchez, 2001. "Underground economy and aggregate fluctuations," Spanish Economic Review, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 41-53.
    11. Raffaella Basile & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2011. "Can we Rely upon Fiscal Policy Estimates in Countries with Unreported Production of 15 Per Cent (or more) of GDP?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3521, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Sungbae An & Frank Schorfheide, 2007. "Bayesian Analysis of DSGE Models—Rejoinder," Econometric Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(2-4), pages 211-219.
    13. Schmitt-Grohe, Stephanie & Uribe, Martin, 1997. "Balanced-Budget Rules, Distortionary Taxes, and Aggregate Instability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 976-1000, October.
    14. Matteo Iacoviello & Stefano Neri, 2010. "Housing Market Spillovers: Evidence from an Estimated DSGE Model," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 125-164, April.
    15. Del Negro, Marco & Schorfheide, Frank & Smets, Frank & Wouters, Rafael, 2007. "On the Fit of New Keynesian Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 25, pages 123-143, April.
    16. Philip Cagan, 1958. "The Demand for Currency Relative to Total Money Supply," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number caga58-1, January.
    17. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi & Huffman, Gregory W, 1988. "Investment, Capacity Utilization, and the Real Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 402-417, June.
    18. Frank Smets & Rafael Wouters, 2007. "Shocks and Frictions in US Business Cycles: A Bayesian DSGE Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 586-606, June.
    19. Schneider, Friedrich, 2005. "Shadow economies around the world: what do we really know?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 598-642, September.
    20. Siem Jan Koopman & Neil Shephard & Jurgen A. Doornik, 1999. "Statistical algorithms for models in state space using SsfPack 2.2," Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 2(1), pages 107-160.
    21. Sungbae An & Frank Schorfheide, 2007. "Bayesian Analysis of DSGE Models," Econometric Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(2-4), pages 113-172.
    22. repec:mes:jeciss:v:33:y:1999:i:3:p:579-607 is not listed on IDEAS
    23. Edgar L. Feige, 2004. "How Big IS the Irregular Economy?," Macroeconomics 0404005, EconWPA.
    24. Cho, Jang-Ok & Cooley, Thomas F., 1994. "Employment and hours over the business cycle," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 411-432, March.
    25. Frey, Bruno S. & Weck-Hanneman, Hannelore, 1984. "The hidden economy as an 'unobserved' variable," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1-2), pages 33-53.
    26. Giles, David E A, 1999. "Measuring the Hidden Economy: Implications for Econometric Modelling," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(456), pages 370-380, June.
    27. Francesco Busato & Bruno Chiarini, 2004. "Market and underground activities in a two-sector dynamic equilibrium model," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 23(4), pages 831-861, May.
    28. Tommaso Proietti, 2006. "Temporal disaggregation by state space methods: Dynamic regression methods revisited," Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 9(3), pages 357-372, November.
    29. Sims, Christopher A, 2002. "Solving Linear Rational Expectations Models," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 20(1-2), pages 1-20, October.
    30. Trabandt, Mathias & Uhlig, Harald, 2011. "The Laffer curve revisited," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 305-327.
    31. Renzo Orsi & Francesco Turino, 2014. "The last fifteen years of stagnation in Italy: a business cycle accounting perspective," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 47(2), pages 469-494, September.
    32. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1974. "Income tax evasion: A theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 201-202, May.
    33. Pratap, Sangeeta & Quintin, Erwan, 2006. "Are labor markets segmented in developing countries? A semiparametric approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(7), pages 1817-1841, October.
    34. Friedrich Schneider & Andreas Buehn & Claudio Montenegro, 2010. "New Estimates for the Shadow Economies all over the World," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(4), pages 443-461.
    35. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 1978. "On the Size Distribution of Business Firms," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 508-523, Autumn.
    36. Phillip Cagan, 1958. "The Demand for Currency Relative to the Total Money Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 303-303.
    37. Cho, Jang-Ok & Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Family labor supply and aggregate fluctuations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 233-245.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:zbw:espost:170564 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Gerasimos T. Soldatos, 2016. "An Anti-Austerity Policy Recipe Against Debt Accumulation in the Presence of Hidden Economy," Asian Economic and Financial Review, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 6(2), pages 90-99, February.
    3. Amedeo Argentiero & Carlo Andrea BOLLINO, 2013. "The Mmeasurement of Underground Economy: A Dynamic-Simulation Based Approach," Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia, Finanza e Statistica 123/2013, Università di Perugia, Dipartimento Economia.
    4. Pappa, Evi & Sajedi, Rana & Vella, Eugenia, 2015. "Fiscal consolidation with tax evasion and corruption," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(S1), pages 56-75.
    5. Solis-Garcia, Mario & Xie, Yingtong, 2017. "Measuring the size of the shadow economy using a dynamic general equilibrium model with trends," MPRA Paper 78968, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 05 May 2017.
    6. Bruno Chiarini & Maria Ferrara & Elisabetta Marzano, 2016. "Investment Shocks, Tax Evasion and the Consumption Puzzle: A DSGE Analysis with Financial Frictions," CESifo Working Paper Series 6015, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Raffaella Basile & Bruno Chiarini & Giovanni Luca & Elisabetta Marzano, 2016. "Fiscal multipliers and unreported production: evidence for Italy," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 51(3), pages 877-896, November.
    8. Guriev, Sergei & Speciale, Biagio & Tuccio, Michele, 2016. "How do regulated and unregulated labor markets respond to shocks? Evidence from immigrants during the Great Recession," CEPR Discussion Papers 11403, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Barbara Annicchiarico & Claudio Cesaroni, 2016. "Tax Reforms and the Underground Economy: A Simulation-Based Analysis," CEIS Research Paper 366, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 10 Feb 2016.

    More about this item


    DSGE; Underground economy; Tax evasion; Bayesian estimation; Italy;

    JEL classification:

    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:red:issued:12-217. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Zimmermann). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.