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Reflections on the meaning and measurement of Unobserved Economies: What do we really know about the "Shadow Economy"

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  • Feige, Edgar L.

Abstract

This paper reviews the meaning and measurement of unobserved economies germane to tax evasion and macroeconomic information systems. These include the unreported, non-observed, underground, illegal, informal and unrecorded economies. It reviews the progress and shortcomings of national and international agency efforts to measure these unobserved economies, noting what they have in common, what distinguishes one from another and their interconnections. It then examines the meaning of Professor Schneider’s Shadow Economy (SSE), and the veracity of his claim to have accurately estimated its size and trend worldwide by employing a MIMIC model methodology. It concludes that SSE estimates suffer from conceptual flaws, apparent manipulation of results and insufficient documentation for replication, questioning their place in the academic, policy and popular literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Feige, Edgar L., 2016. "Reflections on the meaning and measurement of Unobserved Economies: What do we really know about the "Shadow Economy"," MPRA Paper 69271, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Feb 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:69271
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    Cited by:

    1. Ceyhun Elgin & M. ayhan Köse & Franziska Ohnsorge & Shu Yu, 2021. "Understanding Informality Abstract:," Working Papers 2021/03, Bogazici University, Department of Economics.
    2. Leandro Medina & Friedrich Schneider, 2017. "Shadow Economies around the World: New Results for 158 Countries over 1991-2015," CESifo Working Paper Series 6430, CESifo.
    3. Friedrich Schneider, 2016. "Comment on Feige's Paper "Reflections on the Meaning and Measurement of Unobserved Economies: What do we really know about the 'Shadow Economy'?"," CESifo Working Paper Series 5818, CESifo.
    4. Dell’Anno, Roberto & Davidescu, Adriana AnaMaria, 2019. "Estimating shadow economy and tax evasion in Romania. A comparison by different estimation approaches," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 130-149.
    5. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2017. "On Estimating the Size of the Shadow Economy," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 18(1), pages 99-111, February.
    6. Elgin, Ceyhun & Kose, Ayhan & Ohnsorge, Franziska & Yu, Shu, 2021. "Understanding Informality," CEPR Discussion Papers 16497, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. James Alm, 2019. "What Motivates Tax Compliance?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 353-388, April.
    8. Umberto Di Maggio & Giuseppe Notarstefano & Giuseppe Terzo, 2022. "In the name of weak legality? Dangerous relations between citizenship income, non-observed economy and tax cheating," RIEDS - Rivista Italiana di Economia, Demografia e Statistica - The Italian Journal of Economic, Demographic and Statistical Studies, SIEDS Societa' Italiana di Economia Demografia e Statistica, vol. 76(1), pages 56-67, January-M.
    9. Janis N. Kluge & Alexander Libman, 2018. "Sticks or Carrots? Comparing Effectiveness of Government Informal Economy Policies in Russia," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 60(4), pages 605-637, December.
    10. Sintayehu Tulu Wondimu & Mathewos Woldemariam Birru, 2020. "Determinants Of Informal Economy Estimation In Ethiopia: Multiple-Indicators, Multiple-Causes (Mimic) Approach," Copernican Journal of Finance & Accounting, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika, vol. 9(2), pages 65-86.
    11. Jobst, Clemens & Stix, Helmut, 2017. "Doomed to Disappear? The Surprising Return of Cash Across Time and Across Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 12327, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Schneider, Friedrich, 2017. "Restricting or Abolishing Cash: An Effective Instrument for Fighting the Shadow Economy, Crime and Terrorism?," International Cash Conference 2017 – War on Cash: Is there a Future for Cash? 162914, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    13. Friedrich Schneider, 2021. "Do Different Estimation Methods Lead to Implausible Differences in the Size of the Non-Observed or Shadow Economies? A Preliminary Answer," CESifo Working Paper Series 9434, CESifo.
    14. Ana Cinta G. Cabral & Norman Gemmell & Nazila Alinaghi, 2021. "Are survey-based self-employment income underreporting estimates biased? New evidence from matched register and survey data," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 28(2), pages 284-322, April.
    15. Vicente Ríos & Antonio Gómez & Pedro Pascual, 2021. "Raising the Accuracy of Shadow Economy Measurements," Hacienda Pública Española / Review of Public Economics, IEF, vol. 239(4), pages 71-125, November.
    16. Ann-Sofie Kolm & Birthe Larsen, 2019. "Underground activities and labour market performance," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(1), pages 41-70, February.
    17. Lee A. Swanson & Vincent Bruni-Bossio, 2019. "A Righteous Undocumented Economy," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 225-237, November.
    18. Piotr Dybka & Michał Kowalczuk & Bartosz Olesiński & Andrzej Torój & Marek Rozkrut, 2019. "Currency demand and MIMIC models: towards a structured hybrid method of measuring the shadow economy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(1), pages 4-40, February.
    19. Cabral, Ana Cinta G. & Gemmell, Norman, 2018. "Estimating Self-Employment Income-Gaps from Register and Survey Data: Evidence for New Zealand," Working Paper Series 7625, Victoria University of Wellington, Chair in Public Finance.
    20. Friedrich Schneider, 2017. "Implausible Large Differences in the Sizes of Underground Economies in Highly Developed European Countries? A Comparison of Different Estimation Methods," CESifo Working Paper Series 6522, CESifo.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax evasion; shadow economy; non-observed; underground; illegal; informal; unrecorded; MIMIC; cash; National Income and Product Accounts; Friedrich Schneider;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C51 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Construction and Estimation
    • C82 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Macroeconomic Data; Data Access
    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • E41 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Demand for Money
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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