Corruption and Inequality at the Crossroad: A Multi-Method Study of Bribery and Discrimination in Latin America
Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 30 Mar 2015
Date Written: 2009
How does corruption interact with inequality? To answer this question, we employ a field experiment that examines the manner in which police officers in a major Latin American city respond to socioeconomic distinctions when requiring a bribe. In this experiment, four automobile drivers commit identical traffic violations across a randomized sequence of crossroads, which are monitored by transit police. We identify the effect of citizens’ perceived wealth on officers’ propensity to solicit bribes and on the size of the bribes that they solicit. We complement our experimental results with qualitative findings from interviews with police officers. Our core finding is that officers are more likely to target lower class individuals and let more affluent drivers off with warnings. The qualitative results suggest that officers associate wealth with the capacity to exact retribution and therefore are more likely to demand bribes from poorer individuals. We conclude that a multi-method approach provides a richer account of corrupt behavior than that found in most contemporary research.
Keywords: Corruption, Inequality, State Capture, Experiments, Audit Studies, Mexico, Bribe
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