The Culture of Corruption across Generations: An Empirical Study of Bribery Attitudes and Behavior
43 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2013 Last revised: 6 Sep 2017
Date Written: May 1, 2016
Is culture a lasting driver of corruption? I study whether normative attitudes towards bribery persist through generational change. To disentangle cultural from institutional causes, I compare individuals who share an institutional environment but whose parents were born abroad. I find evidence of intergenerational persistence: average bribery attitudes in the parental country of ancestry explain variation in bribery attitudes across second-generation immigrants. The attitudes associated with the mother's ancestry matter more than those associated with the father's, consistent with family-based mechanisms of attitudinal transmission. Relatedly, persistence is stronger for those second-generation immigrants who speak the language of their ancestors at home. I find no evidence that bribery attitudes are transmitted as part of a broader bundle of norms including generalized trust or attitudes towards the law. Finally, I show that bribery norms are associated with bribing behavior, highlighting the need to increase attention to cultural factors in corruption scholarship and policy.
Keywords: Corruption, bribery, culture, intergenerational transmission, norms, attitudes
JEL Classification: K42, Z13, D73, P48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation