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Why do people pay bribes? A survey experiment with resource users

Journal article
Authors Aksel Sundström
Published in Social Science Quarterly
Volume 100
Issue 3
Pages 725-735
ISSN 0038-4941
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 725-735
Language en
Subject categories Political Science


Objective Although corruption is known to hinder natural resource regulations, the research area remains underexplored. Departing from a debate on the reasons driving people's engagement in corruption, this research note studies why some resource users bribe enforcement officers. Methods In a between‐subjects survey experiment, with a sample of resource users active in South African small‐scale fisheries, we examine the effects of inspectors’ response to bribes and other users’ involvement in corruption on attitudes toward bribery. Results Resource users are more willing to partake in bribery when inspectors turn a blind eye to violations and when fellow users are involved in corruption. Conclusion This lends support for the proposition that engagement in corruption is driven by both the anticipated gains from bribes as well as expectations of others’ behavior. This suggests that anti‐corruption policy should be designed with the insight that more than one of these features affect attitudes to bribe‐taking.

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