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Shadow Sorting

In: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2005

  • Tito Boeri
  • Pietro Garibaldi

This paper investigates the border between formal employment, shadow employment, and unemployment in an equilibrium model of the labor market with market frictions. From the labor demand side, firms optimally create legal or shadow employment through a mechanism that is akin to tax evasion. From the labor supply side, heterogeneous workers sort across the two sectors, with high productivity workers entering the legal sector. Such worker sorting appears fully consistent with most empirical evidence on shadow employment. The model sheds also light on the "shadow puzzle", the increasing size of the shadow economy in OECD countries in spite of improvements in technologies detecting tax and social security evasion. Shadow employment is correlated with unemployment, and it is tolerated because the repression of shadow activity increases unemployment. The model implies that shadow wage gaps should be lower in depressed labor markets and that deregulation of labor markets is accompanied by a decline in the average skills of the workforce in both legal and shadow sectors. Based on micro data on two countries with a sizeable shadow economy, Italy and Braziil, we find empirical support to these implications of the model. The paper suggests also that policies aimed at reducing the shadow economy are likely to increase unemployment.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jeffrey A. Frankel & Christopher Pissarides, 2007. "NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2005," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fran07-1, March.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 0339.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0339
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    1. Pietro Garibaldi & Etienne Wasmer, 2005. "Equilibrium Search Unemployment, Endogenous Participation and Labor Market Flows," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/8921, Sciences Po.
    2. Eran Yashiv, 2000. "The Determinants of Equilibrium Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1297-1322, December.
    3. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. James Albrecht & Susan Vroman, 2000. "A Matching Model with Endogenous Skill Requirements," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0774, Econometric Society.
    5. Davis, Steven J. & Henrekson, Magnus, 2004. "Tax Effects on Work Activity, Industry Mix and Shadow Economy Size: Evidence from Rich-Country Comparisons," Ratio Working Papers 57, The Ratio Institute.
    6. Edgar L. Feige, 2005. "The Underground Economy And The Currency Enigma," Macroeconomics 0502004, EconWPA.
    7. Schneider, Friedrich, 2004. "The Size of the Shadow Economies of 145 Countries all over the World: First Results over the Period 1999 to 2003," IZA Discussion Papers 1431, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Boeri, Tito & Garibaldi, Pietro, 2002. "Shadow Activity and Unemployment in a Depressed Labour Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 3433, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Gustavo Gonzaga, 2003. "Labor Turnover and Labor Legislation in Brazil," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Fall 2003), pages 165-222, August.
    10. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
    11. Fredriksson, Peter & Holmlund, Bertil, 2001. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance in Search Equilibrium," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 370-99, April.
    12. Friedrich Schneider & Dominik Enste, 2000. "Shadow Economies Around the World: Size, Causes, and Consequences," IMF Working Papers 00/26, International Monetary Fund.
    13. Wasmer, E. & Zenou, Y., 1997. "Equilibrium Urban Unemployment," DELTA Working Papers 97-15, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
    14. Gilles Saint-Paul, 1995. "The High Unemployment Trap," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(2), pages 527-550.
    15. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/8921 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Kenneth Burdett & Dale T. Mortensen, 1977. "Labor Supply Under Uncertainty," Discussion Papers 297, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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