Uncovering Sensitivity of Tax Evasion: A Combined Vignette and List Experimental Approach

Last registered on May 13, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Uncovering Sensitivity of Tax Evasion: A Combined Vignette and List Experimental Approach
Initial registration date
May 06, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
May 13, 2024, 12:15 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Latvia

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
The objective of this study is to explore how social context influences sensitivity bias in surveys concerning tax evasion. The proposed experimental design offers a deeper dive into how social context shapes individual responses in areas prone to misreporting due to sensitivity bias, particularly the tax evasion.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Saulitis, Andris. 2024. "Uncovering Sensitivity of Tax Evasion: A Combined Vignette and List Experimental Approach." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.13568-1.0
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Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The average number of statements reported by respondents across the four experimental groups.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
This study employs a combination of traditional list experiments and vignette experiments. This dual approach is designed to not only uncover the extent of untruthful disclosures but also to assess whether tax morale significantly drives sensitivity bias. Participants are randomly assigned to either a control or a treatment group. The control group receives a list of four morally neutral or insensitive behaviours unrelated to tax evasion. The respondents are not asked to indicate which particular behaviour they have carried out but only the sum of behaviours. The treatment group, in contrast, receives a list that – next to the four behaviours presented to the control group – includes a fifth behaviour pertaining to tax evasion. Comparing the average mean level from both groups enables an estimation of engagement in tax evasion. Later in the survey, the sensitive question about undeclared work is asked separately and directly to all the respondents to estimate the degree of sensitivity bias and the assessment of ignorable treatment assignment, i.e., that the assignment of participants to treatment or control groups does not influence their responses to the direct question about undeclared work.

Further, two additional experimental groups will incorporate a vignette element. Prior to presenting the (either with four or five behaviours), these groups will estimate the percentage of their citizens who find undeclared work completely unacceptable. This aspect of the experiment is crucial, as it examines how sensitivity bias fluctuates when the injunctive norm is held by either a minority (Latvia) or a majority (Italy & Denmark), thus offering insights into the interplay between perceived social norms and individual reporting behaviour.
Experimental Design Details
Recent critiques of list experimental methodology focus on their potential to misrepresent true preferences. Specifically, concerns have been raised that longer lists may inadvertently inflate the average mean reported in the lists, a phenomenon called “artificial deflation”. To address this and accurately gauge the level of sensitivity bias, this study incorporates a placebo test involving a list of five distinct, non-sensitive behaviours. This list is designed to serve as a control, ensuring that any observed effects are due to the sensitive nature of tax evasion questions rather than the list length. Same as for the list that seeks to identify the tax evasion level, the placebo list will have a random assignment, with half of the participants receiving a four-item list and the other half a five-item list. As a result, there are 16 possible experimental paths for each individual.

The hypotheses guiding the study are as follows:
• In scenarios where individuals are not primed with the levels of tax morale in their respective countries, the sensitivity bias will be higher in Latvia and Italy relative to Denmark. This is attributed to the higher prevalence of the shadow economy in Latvia and Italy.

• When individuals are primed with information regarding the levels of tax morale, the sensitivity bias is expected to be greater in Denmark and Italy as compared to Latvia. This hypothesis is based on the premise that tax morale is relatively lower in Latvia.
Randomization Method
Randomization is done in office of a pollster company by a computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
6,600 respondents
Sample size: planned number of observations
6,600 respondents
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The survey, conducted via Computer Assisted Web Interviews, will encompass a sample of at least 2,200 respondents in each of the three countries (Latvia, Italy, and Denmark), culminating in a total sample size of 6,600 respondents. As a result, each of the 16 experimental paths will be experienced by approximately 410 respondents.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethics Committee of Collegio Carlo Alberto
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials