Drudge links a Guardian story that reports:

Marijuana, pornography and illegal labour have created a hidden market in the United States which now accounts for as much as 10% of the American economy, according to a study. As a cash crop, marijuana is believed to have outstripped maize, and hardcore porn revenue is equal to Hollywood’s domestic box office takings.

That strikes me as slightly implausible. Let’s do some math, shall we?

1. The US GNP exceeds $10 Trillion a year. (I’m too lazy to look very hard for this, but I know it’s over 10T.)

2. Therefore, 10% is $1T.

3. The figures listed in the story for these three sectors: marijuana $25B and porn $10B. No dollar amount is given for illegal labor but they estimate that there are “more than a million” of them working and eight million total.

4. Therefore, the amount for illegal labor must be $1T – ($25B+$10B) = $965B. Which would mean each of the million illegal aliens working would have to earn an average salary of $965,000 a year. But the story said “more than a million.” Maybe it was a lot more? But even if all eight million illegals are working, it’s still $120,625.

If this is true, I’m moving to California to start picking grapes.

And, oh, by the way, the figures for porn–assuming they’re indeed accurate– include ALL sales, that vast majority of which are not part of the underground economy but sold through “legitimate” means and upon which taxes are collected.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Your domestic GDP numbers are, as we used to say, close enough for government work. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the estimated GDP for the first quarter of 2003 is “$10,697.7 billion.”

    Which doesn’t change either your analysis or the stupidity of the original.


  2. James Joyner says:

    Heh. Thanks for the data look-up. Going conservative on the numbers is always safe; my analysis is even better with the extra $697.7B 🙂

  3. It was my pleasure!