Measuring the shadow economy using company managers

Talis J. Putnins*, Arnis Sauka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study develops a method that uses surveys of company managers to measure the size of a shadow economy. Our method is based on the premise that company managers are the most likely to know how much business income and wages go unreported due to their unique position in dealing with both of these types of income. We use a range of survey design features to maximize the truthfulness of responses. Our method combines estimates of misreported business income, unregistered or hidden employees, and unreported wages, to arrive at an estimate of the size of a shadow economy as a percentage of GDP. This approach differs from most other studies of shadow economies, which largely focus on using macroindicators. We illustrate the application of our method to three new EU member countries. We also analyze the factors that influence companies' participation in the shadow economy. Journal of Comparative Economics 43 (2) (2015) 471-490. University of Technology, Sydney, Australia; Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, Riga, Latvia. (C) 2014 Association for Comparative Economic Studies Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-490
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Comparative Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • shadow economy
  • tax evasion
  • company managers
  • new EU members
  • GDP
  • transition countries
  • hidden economy
  • underground economy
  • informal economy
  • United States
  • size
  • entrepreneurship
  • transport
  • pay


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