QoG lunch seminar with Sofia Vera
"How do citizens evaluate bureaucratic corruption?"
In this paper, we examine citizens' attitudes towards "petty corruption" in the bureaucracy. The literature on corruption investigates whether voters hold political leaders accountable at the polls. Still, we know much less about how citizens respond to corruption they encounter in their everyday life when interacting with public servants. The study of bureaucratic corruption is important because not only does it distort the provision of public services, but it can also undermine the rule of law and destabilize the economy. This paper investigates whether citizens respond differently to two separate forms of corruption: 'speed money' and 'petty theft' (Ang 2020). We argue that citizens normatively disapprove of 'petty theft' but tolerate 'speed money.' When citizens are burdened by long delays and excessive regulations in the delivery of services, they might come to accept bribes to public servants as necessary to speed up access to essential services. To test these hypotheses, we conducted a conjoint experiment in Paraguay. This country provides an ideal context to study attitudes towards petty corruption in a dysfunctional bureaucracy. We used a choice-based conjoint design to capture the outcomes and examine how citizens evaluate different forms of corruption in the public sector. This paper helps advance the literature on corruption by exploring citizens' evaluations of "petty corruption" and its interaction with bureaucratic inefficiency.