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The gray market: An invisible $2 trillion economy

Jocelyn Taub, a job-hunting marketing professional, works on a puzzle with a three-year-old girl while babysitting for extra money in New York City. Taub has worked in the music promotion and radio business her whole career, but was let go from her job 10 months ago and has been job searching ever since. To make ends meet, she's been working odd jobs in offices for friends and is doing some babysitting. 'I've seen downturns before, but it's never been like this,' she says.

When jobs are tough to find and salaries remain stagnant, sometimes people turn to something else to make ends meet. Maybe they start playing poker, or stripping or even selling Tupperware under the table to pay their bills — not necessarily illegal, but not necessarily mainstream.

According to Edgar Feige, economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, unreported income totals $2 trillion in the U.S. That includes illegal activities like drug dealing, but it also includes side jobs like nannies and eBay sellers.

We want to hear stories of the little and big things you did for money in this gray area. Email us or leave a comment. 



Dan Szematowicz, Senior Producer of Marketplace Weekend, shares his story of how he pulled through leaner times early in his career:

A group of friends and I went to the local casino for an evening of shenanigans and tomfoolery. Next thing I know, I’m sitting at a poker table playing VERY low stakes Texas hold’em.

Over the next few hours, the stack of chips in front of me grew. Beginner’s luck, right?

I enjoyed the game, so I went back the next weekend. Same result. I studied the game, constantly practiced and steadily moved up in stakes. After a few months, I was making significantly more money from playing poker than I was from my more respectable job. That extra money allowed me to bridge the gap between what I was pulling down from my entry-level radio job, and the bills that needed to be paid. In turn, that gave me the feeling of security that I needed to concentrate on growing my radio career.

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