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Corruption and legislature size: Evidence from Brazil

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  • Britto, Diogo G.C.
  • Fiorin, Stefano

Abstract

This paper studies whether and how legislatures affect political corruption. Using a regression discontinuity design in the context of Brazilian municipalities, we find a positive causal impact of council size on corruption levels, as detected by random federal audits. This indicates that an extra councilor represents an additional political actor potentially interested in diverting public resources, which we define as a rent extraction effect. However, we find further evidence that, in some contexts, larger councils enhance the representation of opposition parties and effectively increase monitoring over the executive, attenuating the rent extraction effect. Namely, in municipalities where opposition parties are typically underrepresented, the additional seat in the council is absorbed by the opposition and corruption outcomes do not worsen. In addition, only in such context, mayors are more commonly sentenced for misconduct in office by judicial authorities, whose investigations anecdotally often originates from councilors denouncing mayors to local courts. Overall, our findings show that legislature size is detrimental to corruption outcomes but less so where the representation of opposition parties improves with the enlargement of the legislature.

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  • Britto, Diogo G.C. & Fiorin, Stefano, 2020. "Corruption and legislature size: Evidence from Brazil," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:65:y:2020:i:c:s0176268020300884
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2020.101940
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Corruption; Council size; Legislative oversight; Regression discontinuity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures

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