Evolution of theories of shadow economy formation

Research paper by Andrii Zolkover, Dmytro Kovalenko

Indexed on: 12 Jan '21Published on: 30 Dec '20Published in: Technology Audit and Production Reserves


The object of research is the theory of formation of the shadow sector of the economy. The paper presents an evolutionary analysis of theories of the shadow economy emergence. It deals with the study of the main theories of the emergence of the informal sector of the economy and determines their features, preconditions of origin, and drivers. Based on the systematization of literary research of scholars, the following groups of theories have been identified: modernization theory, neoliberal theory, institutional theory, the theory of political economy. The analysis of the economic content of the concept of the shadow economy emergence has been used to identify the most influential drivers of the transition of economic entities into the «underground». In particular, the most influential factors include the level of centralization of power, the economic development of the country, the quality of the institutional environment, etc. The analysis of approaches to understanding the definition of the «shadow economy» revealed ambiguous interpretations of the concept of the shadow economy and a significant number of synonyms used in the study of the shadow economy. The Google Trends toolkit was used to prove the multivariate approaches to understanding the essence of this phenomenon. The most common interpretations include the shadow economy, the informal economy, the underground economy, the black economy, and the non-observed economy. The bibliometric analysis of scientific publications in journals indexed in Scopus and WoS databases for 2014–2020 yielded three main clusters, which combine papers that deal with the study of the theory of shadow economy. They are as follows: the shadow economy emerges mainly due to low rates of economic development of the country; the shadow economy emerges due to high unemployment; the growing share of the shadow sector of the economy is a consequence of ineffective government policies. The study concluded that the key task in the implementation of state policy aimed at combating the shadow economy should be coordination the state prevention measures with the most influential drivers of growth in the share of the shadow sector of the economy.