New Advances in Experimental Research on Corruption: Volume 15


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

In Chapter 2, Ananish Chaudhuri surveys the empirical evidence on the existence of gender differences in individuals’ propensity to engage in corruption. While the chapter begins with a review of the findings generated by cross-country studies, the main focus of the discussion is in the insights provided by laboratory experiments specifically designed to test for gender differentials in corrupt transactions. According to the carefully conducted survey of the literature, the existing experimental evidence suggests that females are either equally or less willing to engage in corruption than males; there is very little evidence that women behave more corruptly than men. The author discusses possible reasons for gender differentials in corrupt behavior, such as risk aversion and preferences for reciprocation. Finally, Chaudhuri emphasizes that gender effects are more likely to be observed in studies conducted in developed countries and calls for further research to be conducted in developing countries, with the aim of shedding light on the relationships between gender differences in corrupt behavior and the cultural background of the experimental participants.

I provide an overview of the literature that explores whether there are gender differences in corruption using economic decision-making experiments designed to simulate corrupt transactions usually involving acts of bribery between a firm and a government official. A primary focus of the chapter is to critically examine this evidence with a view to addressing the following question: will increased female participation in public life – both in government and bureaucracy – lead to reduced corruption? I find that across a wide variety of experiments, studying different aspects of corruption, it is either the case that women behave in a more pro-social and less corrupt manner than men or that there are no significant gender differences. There are no studies that find men to be less corrupt. Consequently, I conclude by arguing that we can answer the question posed above in the affirmative.

Lab studies on culture and corruption have led to some puzzling, contradictory results. This chapter begins with a discussion of nonexperimental work in this area and evaluates the experimental findings in the context of earlier research. We sketch out the channels through which culture interacts with corruption (i.e., through institutions and social norms) and argue that discrepancies in experimental results may be due to differences in design (including repetition or unobserved variation in beliefs) or due to differences in the response to punishment across societies. In addition to exploring design-based reasons for previous contradictory findings, avenues for future research include: behavioral responses to different types of externalities; replicating results in different countries; and utilizing the lab to formulate effective anticorruption measures.

We review the existing laboratory experimental studies on corruption that have generated results with clear policy implications. We present and discuss experimental findings on the role that both monetary incentives and nonmonetary motivations may play in corruption decision-making, and, hence, in the fight against corruption.

This chapter examines the external validity of lab experiments on corruption by evaluating the extent to which experimental results are robust to the degree of field context included in the experimental design. To do so, we follow Harrison and List (2004) and partition corruption experiments into four classes depending on their field context. A comparison of the results obtained within each class reveals that similar treatment effects tend to emerge. Although a definitive answer to the external validity question has yet to be provided, these preliminary results provide some support to the external validity of lab experiments on corruption.

This chapter critically surveys recent advances in the methodology of measuring corruption in the field. The issue of measurement is central in the corruption literature, and the choice of method can significantly influence our thinking about the determinants, the mechanics, and the impact of corruption on the economy. We provide a conceptual categorization of different methods of measuring corruption ranging from surveys to direct observation of bribe payments in the field, while discussing the methodological and conceptual advantages and disadvantages of each method. Finally, we highlight areas of complementarity across methods and discuss avenues for future research.

In this paper, we present a critical survey of experiments on political clientelism and vote-buying. We claim that through randomization and control, field experiments represent an important tool for answering causal questions, whereas list experiments provide useful methods that improve the hard task of measuring clientelism. We show that existing experimental research gives answers to the questions of why clientelism is effective for getting votes and winning elections, who relies more on this strategy – incumbents or challengers – how much clientelism takes place, and who tend to be the favorite targets of clientelistic politicians. The relationship between clientelism and other illicit strategies for getting votes, such as electoral violence and fraud, has also been analyzed through experimental interventions. Experiments have also studied mechanisms and policies for overcoming clientelism. Finally, we show that external validity is a major source of concern that affects this burgeoning literature.

In observational data, access to information is associated with lower levels of corruption. This chapter reviews a small but growing body of work that uses field experiments to explore the mechanisms behind this relationship. We present a typology for understanding this research based on the type of corruption being addressed (political vs. bureaucratic), the mechanism for accountability (retrospective vs. prospective), and the nature of the information provided (factual vs. prescriptive). We describe some of the tradeoffs involved in design decisions for such experiments and suggest directions for future research.

Existing experimental and quasi-experimental results have demonstrated that both anticorruption initiatives that provide information and/or authority to the recipients of government programs – so-called “bottom-up” interventions – and initiatives that rely on government agencies for enforcement – “top-down” interventions – can be effective in some settings. Yet, in other instances, both forms of intervention have been found to be ineffective in combating corruption. These contrasting results strongly suggest that the effectiveness of both “top-down” and “bottom-up” anticorruption interventions is conditional on other factors. Unfortunately, the existing literature says little regarding the conditions conducive to the success of either forms of intervention. Assessing the conditional effects of anticorruption treatments poses substantial challenges for researchers – particularly for those employing experimental or quasi-experimental approaches. This chapter (1) discusses factors that may condition the effectiveness of both top-down and bottom-up interventions; (2) illustrates the difficulties in assessing these conditional relationships, with particular reference to experimental and quasi-experimental settings; and (3) suggests approaches that might mitigate these problems.

This chapter argues that reciprocity provides a key to understanding corrupt behavior and its limitations. It allows for an understanding why agents not only are guided by explicit incentives but also serve those to whom they owe gratitude. It allows to observe how citizens disregard their narrow-minded interests and engage in altruistic punishment, potentially exercising negative reciprocity toward a corrupt leadership. It shows how reciprocity is at the center of criminal networks and how reform sometimes enhances rather than inhibits this dismal form of reciprocity. It finally reveals how humans are at risk of reciprocating toward their own self-image, which may inhibit them from impartially assessing their misdeeds. A thorough understanding of the power of reciprocity can inspire novel avenues for reform, some of which are presented here.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Experimental Economics
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN