'TakePart Live: TPL Disrupt' Series: Underground Economy

We look into the $2 trillion missing from America's GDP by exploring shadow economies in Los Angeles.

Yoonj Kim is an independent journalist and producer in Los Angeles.

Earlier this year, a report estimated the U.S. underground economy—in which income goes unreported—to be approximately $2 trillion. TakePart Live’s Jacob Soboroff went around Los Angeles to meet with people who constitute this shadow economy and find out why they’re a part of it.

As he discovers in our second "TPL Disrupt" segment, a wide range of people constitute the unreported $2 trillion. Drug dealers and prostitutes don’t report to the IRS for obvious reasons, but college graduates and other skilled workers are also among this group.  

MORE: Watch More from "TakePart Live: TPL Disrupt"

When we set out with Jacob to shoot the story, these underground workers were so easy to find that they might as well have been in the mainstream. They were also surprisingly frank about their unreported incomes, an indication of how commonplace this has become, especially in the current economy. 

For now, these folks are content with the way they make a living. But it’s a serious issue in the long term, one concerning an entire generation of people without social security, health care, and other safety nets that the U.S. has provided for decades. With falling college graduate earnings in the past decade and a severe lack of jobs, though, it appears that few other options exist for Americans today. 

"TPL Disrupt" is TakePart Live's original documentary series. This is the second of the weekly features that will combine investigative and participatory docu-journalism.

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