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Who pays bribes for public services?

DLP Research Fellow Dr Caryn Peiffer is co-author with Prof Richard Rose (University of Strathclyde) of a new open access article on bribery. It shows that integrating measures of political institutions and individual characteristics can provide a policy relevant understanding of who does and does not pay bribes for public services.

Integrating institutional and behavioural measures of bribery, available online in early view, will be published shortly in a special ‘Corruption in Europe and beyond’ issue of the European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. It assesses the correlation between individual characteristics – such as gender or age – and an individual’s willingness to pay a bribe. It also considers country characteristics such as colonial history and inequality levels.

Most analyses of bribery either focus only on the individual level, or they test very few country-level hypotheses. The authors found that much more information was gained from including both levels in their analyses. They estimate that this multi-level model can explain almost twice as much of the variation in bribery payments as each of the individual level models.

The analyses show that people are more likely to bribe when they come from a country that is a former colony, has an unfree press, a history of late bureaucratisation, and low provision of social services. The level of inequality or whether a country has a history of Communist rule doesn't seem to influence the likelihood of paying a bribe.

At the individual level, those more likely to bribe are those who come into contact with the state frequently and who believe that corruption is pervasive. Men are also more likely to pay a bribe than women. Income, education, urbanisation and age are not found to have a significant effect.

The analysis uses Transparency International's 2013 Global Corruption Barometer dataset, which covers 76 countries and over 80,000 respondents.  

The authors suggest changing procedures that give opportunities for bribery when services are delivered locally and abolishing official posts that offer the greatest opportunity for extracting bribes. Since bribery is more likely when services are scarce, it can also be reduced by making the supply of services match individual entitlements.

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