Corruption and Accountability at the Grassroots Level: An Experiment on the Preferences and Incentives of Village Leaders

37 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2016 Last revised: 18 Oct 2018

Date Written: September 20, 2018

Abstract

This article examines the willingness of elected and non-elected village leaders to misappropriate public resources for personal gain. A behavioral experiment with local leaders in 48 Tanzanian villages reveals that elected village leaders are intrinsically less willing to misappropriate public funds than externally appointed village leaders and ordinary citizens in the same communities. However, actual corruption outcomes depend less on the village leaders' intrinsic preferences than on the social and electoral incentives village leaders are facing in their community. At the village level, corruption is highly conspicuous and difficult to hide. Therefore, village leaders have to anticipate the consequences of their actions for their social reputations and for their future social interactions in the village. These informal social incentives affect not only elected leaders, but also non-elected leaders, and appear to offset some of the advantages of electoral selection.

Keywords: village governance, corruption, elections, experiment

JEL Classification: D72, D73, C99

Suggested Citation

Lierl, Malte M., Corruption and Accountability at the Grassroots Level: An Experiment on the Preferences and Incentives of Village Leaders (September 20, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2727329 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2727329

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