IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Shadow Economy in International Comparison: Options for Economic Policy Derived from an OECD Panel Analysis


  • Ulrich Thießen


Building on new behavioral and institutional theories, using a data set of about 450 variables and augmenting the Sala-i-Martin definition of robustness, we find evidence in support of the hypothesis that the standard causes of the shadow economy (SE), taxes, the administrative burden and labor market regulations, are not per se crucial in determining the size of the SE. There are many other influences with a consistently estimated plausible sign and whose quantitative impact appears to be even larger and more significant than that of the standard causes. Many of the robust influences emanate from relatively new theories such as elements of direct democracy, social interaction effects, moral aspects, and happiness, and from the institutional literature on the relative importance of specific institutions for economic performance. Most of them can well be influenced by governments. Hence, in order to reduce the SE and tax avoidance, a coordinated international strategy of using incentives to work, save, and invest in the official economy, including the behavior of the government, could be more successful than a strategy built on more government control, increased punishment and less freedom. The latter strategy would contradict the new theories and our evidence but appears to have been adopted by some OECD countries. Simulations of the size of the SE demonstrate their sensitivity to required velocity assumptions and show that previous estimates, including those of the so-called Mimic model, appear to be based on the very high end of possible velocity assumptions. Relatively low velocity assumptions can be defended much better and yield macro estimates of the SE consistent with the micro evidence. Finally, for the first time we separate the relatively large "criminal" shadow activity from the "non-criminal" one.

Suggested Citation

  • Ulrich Thießen, 2010. "The Shadow Economy in International Comparison: Options for Economic Policy Derived from an OECD Panel Analysis," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1031, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1031

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Seitz, Franz & Fischer, Björn & Köhler, Petra, 2004. "The demand for euro area currencies: past, present and future," Working Paper Series 330, European Central Bank.
    2. Oguzhan Dincer & Eric Uslaner, 2010. "Trust and growth," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 142(1), pages 59-67, January.
    3. Rivera-Batiz, Francisco L, 2002. "Democracy, Governance, and Economic Growth: Theory and Evidence," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(2), pages 225-247, June.
    4. Thiessen, Ulrich, 2003. "The Impact of Fiscal Policy and Deregulation on Shadow Economies in Transition Countries: The Case of Ukraine," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 114(3-4), pages 295-318, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Debuncification
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-12-28 20:35:29


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

    Cited by:

    1. de Koker, Louis & Jentzsch, Nicola, 2013. "Financial Inclusion and Financial Integrity: Aligned Incentives?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 267-280.
    2. Yilmaz BAYAR, 2016. "Public governance and shadow economy in Central and Eastern European countries," REVISTA ADMINISTRATIE SI MANAGEMENT PUBLIC, Faculty of Administration and Public Management, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 2016(27), pages 62-73, Decembre.
    3. Konstantin A. Kholodilin & Ulrich Thießen, 2011. "The Shadow Economy in OECD Countries: Panel-Data Evidence," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1122, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    4. Bittencourt, Manoel & Gupta, Rangan & Stander, Lardo, 2014. "Tax evasion, financial development and inflation: Theory and empirical evidence," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 194-208.
    5. Bartzsch, Nikolaus & Rösl, Gerhard & Seitz, Franz, 2013. "Currency movements within and outside a currency union: The case of Germany and the euro area," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 393-401.
    6. Goel, Rajeev K. & Nelson, Michael A., 2016. "Shining a light on the shadows: Identifying robust determinants of the shadow economy," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 351-364.
    7. Piotr Dybka & Michal Kowalczuk & Bartosz Olesinski & Marek Rozkrut & Andrzej Toroj, 2017. "Currency demandand MIMIC models: towards a structured hybrid model-based estimation of the shadow economy size," Working Papers 2017-030, Warsaw School of Economics, Collegium of Economic Analysis.
    8. Marcus Ruge, 2010. "Determinants and Size of the Shadow Economy - A Structural Equation Model," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(4), pages 511-523.

    More about this item


    shadow economy; currency and mimic method; policy response;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    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:diw:diwwpp:dp1031. 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: (Bibliothek). 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.