Misunderestimating Corruption

40 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Aart Kraay

Aart Kraay

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Peter Murrell

University of Maryland - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 1, 2013


Estimates of the extent of corruption rely largely on self-reports of individuals, business managers, and government officials. Yet it is well known that survey respondents are reticent to tell the truth about activities to which social and legal stigma are attached, implying a downward bias in survey-based estimates of corruption. This paper develops a method to estimate the prevalence of reticent behavior, in order to isolate rates of corruption that fully reflect respondent reticence in answering sensitive questions. The method is based on a statistical model of how respondents behave when answering a combination of conventional and random-response survey questions. The responses to these different types of questions reflect three probabilities -- that the respondent has done the sensitive act in question, that the respondent exhibits reticence in answering sensitive questions, and that a reticent respondent is not candid in answering any specific sensitive question. These probabilities can be estimated using a method-of-moments estimator. Evidence from the 2010 World Bank Enterprise survey in Peru suggests reticence-adjusted estimates of corruption that are roughly twice as large as indicated by responses to standard questions. Reticence-adjusted estimates of corruption are also substantially higher in a set of ten Asian countries covered in the Gallup World Poll.

Keywords: Information Security & Privacy, Statistical & Mathematical Sciences, Psychology, Scientific Research & Science Parks, Science Education

Suggested Citation

Kraay, Aart and Murrell, Peter, Misunderestimating Corruption (June 1, 2013). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 6488, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2281013

Aart Kraay (Contact Author)

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

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Washington, DC 20433
United States
202-473-5756 (Phone)
202-522-3518 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/akraay

Peter Murrell

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
301-405-3476 (Phone)
301-405-3542 (Fax)

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