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Article

Contagious corruption: cross-country comparisions

EUI Working Paper MWP 2019/06. 2019. P. 1-23.
Zhuravleva T., Schram A., Zheng J. D.

We investigate how prescriptive and descriptive norms affect the development of corruption over time. In particular, we are interested in whether the extent of corruption converges. If it does, we study how the level at which it converges depends on the prescriptive norms in the environment in which it takes place and on the information individuals have about others’ corrupt choices, that is, on descriptive norms. In a laboratory experiment implemented in Italy, China and the Netherlands, a Gneezy-type corruption task is used, with a real-effort task. We use a Krupka-Weber elicitation method to obtain information about existing prescriptive norms with respect to corrupt behavior. To induce natural variation in descriptive norms, we vary the type of information about others’ choices. Our results show that corruption is highly contagious everywhere, that is, descriptive norms affect choices. Nevertheless, differences in the effects of descriptive norms are evident across countries. Prescriptive norms concerning bribers’ and judges’ behaviors are observed to differ across the considered subject pools. While in China and the Netherlands it is highly socially inappropriate to bribe and, if you are a decision maker, to treat unfavorably people with high efforts and low bribes, in Italy the norms are the opposite.