Essays on corruption and responsibility

Verbel Bustamante, Yuliet (2023) Essays on corruption and responsibility. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis contributes to the investigation of corruption and, in particular, to the understanding of responsibility as a driver of corrupt decisions. I write three chapters investigating various ways responsibility shapes decisions and perceptions of corruption. I start by providing a general introduction that gives an overview of the main topic of the thesis and the three chapters contained in it. I give a summary of each chapter below.

Chapter 1 answers the question of are people more willing to accept a bribe or to embezzle money? In this chapter, I study the willingness to engage in these two types of corruption through the implementation of outcome-equivalent games that only differ in the level of responsibility they entail for the decision-maker. I find that the willingness to engage in corruption is higher in bribery than in embezzlement situations, implying that sharing the responsibility for the outcome leads to a higher willingness to engage in corruption. In an additional experiment eliciting the social norms around bribery and embezzlement, I find that the social appropriateness ratings for each type of corruption are not significantly different from each other; however, a norm of no-corruption exists in both cases.

The focus of Chapter 2 is to study the effect of different levels of responsibility and externality in decisions of corruption. Using an experiment, I contrast people's willingness to embezzle money in situations that differ in two aspects. The first aspect is the fraction of responsibility (i.e., concentrated or shared) decision-makers bear for the outcome of their decisions. The second aspect is the scope of the externality (i.e., concentrated or diffused) that a decision of embezzlement imposes on a third party. I also compare whether one of these two factors dominates the other. I find that the willingness to embezzle is only significantly affected by whether the externality is concentrated or diffused and not by whether the responsibility is shared or concentrated. A more diffused externality leads to more decisions of corruption. Given this, it follows that changes in the scope of the externality dominate changes in the fraction of responsibility when evaluating their effect on corruption.

In Chapter 3 we turn the focus from how responsibility influences decisions of corruption to how victims and bystanders of corruption attribute responsibility to the decision-makers. In an experiment, we let either citizens or officials propose a bribe interchange to the other, and the other decides whether to accept the proposal. We then ask the victims of the corrupt transaction or the bystanders of it to judge the individual decisions of proposing and accepting a bribe. We interpret their judgments as a measure of responsibility attribution. We identify three features in our data: (i) the person accepting a bribe interchange that has been proposed is regarded as more responsible than the person proposing it, but only when accepting the bribe is a decision taken by officials, (ii) officials are regarded as more responsible for corruption than citizens, even more, when they are the ones accepting the corrupt transaction, and (iii) victims do not assign responsibility consistently more than bystanders do. Our results suggest that people find corrupt actors responsible for the outcomes of corruption at different levels depending on factors like whether they are attached to a label of law enforcer (i.e., official), and whether they are the ones sealing the deal by accepting the bribe.

Finally, I provide a general conclusion summarizing the previous chapters and their main findings. I also discuss avenues for future research and mention a couple of methodological observations derived from conducting the experiments in this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Montero, Maria
Possajennikov, Alex
Keywords: Corruption; Bribery; Embezzlement; Responsibility; Experiment Responsibility Attribution
Subjects: H Social sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Economics
Item ID: 73705
Depositing User: Verbel Bustamante, Yuliet
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2023 04:40

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