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The Unofficial Economy and the Business Cycle: A Test for Theories


  • Catalina Granda-Carvajal

    (University of Connecticut and Universidad de Antioquia)


The shadow economy is an extensive phenomenon worldwide. It poses several questions, the consequences on fluctuations in economic activity being among the major ones. Based on official data, this paper establishes a set of cyclical properties of macroeconomic aggregates and studies how these vary across countries with the size of the unofficial sector. Through comparisons with the existing literature on business cycles in economies featuring underground activities, the obtained ‘stylized facts’ are used to test the relevance of theoretical predictions on the influence of the shadow economy. Using this procedure allows to confirm that the evidence is not entirely of the sort suggested in business cycle models. In particular, some important macro aggregates and cyclical properties have been neglected in the analysis altogether, while others have been paid too much attention for no apparent empirical reason. Some possible avenues for future research can be drawn from this exercise.

Suggested Citation

  • Catalina Granda-Carvajal, 2010. "The Unofficial Economy and the Business Cycle: A Test for Theories," Working papers 2010-17, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2010-17 Note: I would like to thank my adviser, Christian Zimmermann, for his comments and motivation. This paper has benefited from suggestions from seminar participants at the University of Connecticut and at the International Workshop Shadow Economy, Tax Policy, and Labour Markets in International Comparison: Options for Economic Policy, University of Potsdam, April 15-16, 2010. All errors are entirely mine. Financial assistance from Universidad de Antioquia is gratefully acknowledged.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fortin, Bernard & Marceau, Nicolas & Savard, Luc, 1997. "Taxation, wage controls and the informal sector," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 293-312, November.
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    7. Rand, John & Tarp, Finn, 2002. "Business Cycles in Developing Countries: Are They Different?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 2071-2088, December.
    8. Bosch, Mariano & Maloney, William F., 2008. "Cyclical Movements in Unemployment and Informality in Developing Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 3514, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
    10. McGrattan, Ellen R & Rogerson, Richard & Wright, Randall, 1997. "An Equilibrium Model of the Business Cycle with Household Production and Fiscal Policy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(2), pages 267-290, May.
    11. Fiess, Norbert M. & Fugazza, Marco & Maloney, William F., 2010. "Informal self-employment and macroeconomic fluctuations," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 211-226, March.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Diaz-Moreno, Carlos & Galdon-Sanchez, Jose Enrique, 2002. "Explaining cross-country differences in participation rates and aggregate fluctuations," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 333-345, February.
    15. Fiorito, Riccardo & Kollintzas, Tryphon, 1994. "Stylized facts of business cycles in the G7 from a real business cycles perspective," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 235-269, February.
    16. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:3:y:2008:i:58:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Agenor, Pierre-Richard & McDermott, C John & Prasad, Eswar S, 2000. "Macroeconomic Fluctuations in Developing Countries: Some Stylized Facts," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 14(2), pages 251-285, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Catalina Granda Carvajal, 2015. "Informality and macroeconomic volatility: do credit constraints matter?," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 42(6), pages 1095-1111, November.
    2. Slim, Sadri, 2015. "Un modelo Mundell-Fleming con economía ilegal y lavado de dinero
      [Modeling illegal economy and money laundering: a Mundell-Fleming framework]
      ," MPRA Paper 64675, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. 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.
    4. Colombo, Emilio & Onnis, Luisanna & Tirelli, Patrizio, 2016. "Shadow economies at times of banking crises: Empirics and theory," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 180-190.
    5. Catalina Granda-Carvajal, 2012. "Macroeconomic Implications of the Underground Sector: Challenging the Double Business Cycle Approach," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 237-256, September.
    6. Giuseppe Ciccarone & Francesco Giuli & Enrico Marchetti, 2016. "Search frictions and labor market dynamics in a real business cycle model with undeclared work," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 62(3), pages 409-442, August.

    More about this item


    Shadow economy; Business cycles; Model evaluation.;

    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
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • C82 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Macroeconomic Data; Data Access
    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection


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