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Using Panel Data to Exactly Estimate Under-Reporting by the Self-Employed


  • John Gibson

    () (University of Waikato)

  • Bonggeun Kim

    (Sungkyunkwan University and University of Waikato)

  • Chul Chung

    (Korea Institute for International Economic Policy)


The income of the self-employed is often assumed to be understated in economic statistics. Debate exists about the extent of under-reporting and the resulting measures of the size of the underground economy. This paper refines a method developed by Pissarides and Weber (1989) and uses discrepancies between food shares and reported incomes to estimate under-reporting by the self-employed. In contrast to previous studies our panel data methodology distinguishes income under-reporting from transitory income fluctuations of the self-employed, and provides an exact estimate of the degree of under-reporting rather than just an interval estimate. Using panel data from Korea and Russia we estimate that 38 percent of the income of self-employed households in Korea and 47 percent of the income of Russian self-employed households is not reported.

Suggested Citation

  • John Gibson & Bonggeun Kim & Chul Chung, 2008. "Using Panel Data to Exactly Estimate Under-Reporting by the Self-Employed," Working Papers in Economics 08/15, University of Waikato.
  • Handle: RePEc:wai:econwp:08/15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Simon Johnson & Daniel Kaufman & Andrei Shleifer, 1997. "The Unofficial Economy in Transition," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 159-240.
    2. Panayiota Lyssiotou & Panos Pashardes & Thanasis Stengos, 2004. "Estimates of the black economy based on consumer demand approaches," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 622-640, July.
    3. Timothy Beatty & Erling Røed Larsen, 2005. "Using Engel curves to estimate bias in the Canadian CPI as a cost of living index," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(2), pages 482-499, May.
    4. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
    5. Gibson, John & Stillman, Steven & Le, Trinh, 2008. "CPI bias and real living standards in Russia during the transition," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 140-160, August.
    6. Herb J. Schuetze, 2002. "Profiles of Tax Non-compliance Among the Self-Employed in Canada: 1969 to 1992," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 28(2), pages 219-237, June.
    7. Dora L. Costa, 2001. "Estimating Real Income in the United States from 1888 to 1994: Correcting CPI Bias Using Engel Curves," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(6), pages 1288-1310, December.
    8. Edvard Johansson, 2005. "An estimate of self-employment income underreporting in Finland," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 31, pages 99-109.
    9. Solon, Gary, 1992. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 393-408, June.
    10. Pissarides, Christopher A. & Weber, Guglielmo, 1989. "An expenditure-based estimate of Britain's black economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 17-32, June.
    11. Hamilton, Bruce W., 2001. "Black-White Differences in Inflation: 1974-1991," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 77-96, July.
    12. Chung, Chul & Kim , Bonggeun & Park , Myung-Ho, 2007. "CPI Bias in Korea," East Asian Economic Review, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, vol. 11(2), pages 261-282, December.
    13. repec:hrv:faseco:30728045 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Erik Hurst & Geng Li & Benjamin Pugsley, 2014. "Are Household Surveys Like Tax Forms? Evidence from Income Underreporting of the Self-Employed," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 19-33, March.

    More about this item


    Engle curve; measurement error; self-employment; underground economy;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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