An Experimental Study on Corrupt Actions

Research output: Working paperWorking papers


The large negative impact of corruption on all areas of individuals’ lives suggests that it is vital for the well-being of citizens to understand why people act corruptly and why corrupt actions are sometimes punished and sometimes not. Our study analyzes the propensity to engage in and to punish corrupt behavior in a three-person sequential move-game played by university students in California. We find that 66% of the people participating in our experiment bribed, and out of these bribes almost 70% accepted the bribes even with knowledge that their actions may be sanctioned by a third person. Males tend to give higher bribes compared to women, and the likelihood of offering a bribe decreases if the participant has work experience and spent time in other countries. Only 51% of the corrupt acts were punished by the citizens. Furthermore, our survey reveals that a lot of the participants are well informed about corruption in the US and all over the world by the media. A contribution of our paper is that it provides additional data in a U.S. setting, which can allows for cross-country comparison of individuals corrupt actions in future research.
Translated title of the contributionEine experimentelle Untersuchung korrupter Handlungen
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationIrvine
PublisherCenter for the Study of Democracy, University of California
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 20.02.2015

    Research areas

  • Politics - corruption, experiments, punishment, bribery