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Corruption: Top Down or Bottom Up?


  • Christopher J. Waller
  • Thierry Verdier
  • Roy Gardner


This article studies the impact of corruption on an economy with a hierarchical government. In particular, we study whether centralizing corruption within the higher level of government increases or decreases the total amount of corruption. We show that when the after-tax relative profitability of the formal sector as compared to that of the informal sector is high enough, adding a layer of government increases the total amount of corruption. By contrast, for high-enough public wages and/or an efficient monitoring technology of the bureaucratic system, centralization of corruption at the top of the government hierarchy redistributes bribe income from the lower level to the upper level. In the process, total corruption is reduced and the formal sector of the economy expands. Copyright 2002, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher J. Waller & Thierry Verdier & Roy Gardner, 2002. "Corruption: Top Down or Bottom Up?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(4), pages 688-703, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecinqu:v:40:y:2002:i:4:p:688-703

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Davide Infante & Janna Smirnova, 2010. "Market Failures within Poor Institutions: The Effects of Bureaucrats’ Rent-seeking Activity," Chapters,in: Institutional and Social Dynamics of Growth and Distribution, chapter 5 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. John Bennett & Saul Estrin, 2006. "Corruption and Bureaucratic Structure in a Developing Economy," Economics and Finance Discussion Papers 06-07, Economics and Finance Section, School of Social Sciences, Brunel University.
    3. Balafoutas, Loukas, 2011. "Public beliefs and corruption in a repeated psychological game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 51-59, April.
    4. Shuanglin Lin & Wei Zhang, 2009. "The effect of corruption on capital accumulation," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 97(1), pages 67-93, May.
    5. Boggio, Margherita, 2011. "From Reluctant Privatization to Municipal Capitalism: an Overview on Ownership, Political Connections and Decentralization," MPRA Paper 46232, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Pranab Bardhan & Dilip Mookherjee, 2005. "Decentralization, Corruption and Government Accountability: An Overview," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-152, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    7. Daniel Kaufmann & Gil Mehrez & Tugrul Gurgur, 2003. "Voice or Public Sector Management? An Empirical Investigation of Determinants of Public Sector Performance based on a Survey of Public Officials," Econometrics 0308004, EconWPA.
    8. Ratbek Dzhumashev, 2014. "The Two-Way Relationship Between Government Spending And Corruption And Its Effects On Economic Growth," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(2), pages 403-419, April.
    9. Anwar Shah, 2006. "Corruption and Decentralized Public Governance," Chapters,in: Handbook of Fiscal Federalism, chapter 19 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. Scott Gehlbach, 2003. "Taxability, Elections, and Government Support of Business Activity," Working Papers w0030, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    11. Mohammad Reza Farzanegan & Tim Mennel, 2012. "Fiscal decentralization and Pollution: Institutions Matter," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201222, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    12. Diaby, Aboubacar & Sylwester, Kevin, 2014. "Bureaucratic competition and public corruption: Evidence from transition countries," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 75-87.
    13. Richard Bernardi & Michael Witek & Michael Melton, 2009. "A Four-Country Study of the Associations Between Bribery and Unethical Actions," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 84(3), pages 389-403, February.
    14. Scott Gehlbach, 2003. "Taxability and Low-Productivity Traps," Working Papers w0029, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    15. Emerson, Patrick M., 2006. "Corruption, competition and democracy," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 193-212, October.
    16. Ekaterina Vostroknutova, 2003. "Shadow Economy, Rent-Seeking Activities and the Perils of Reinforcement of the Rule of Law," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-578, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    17. C. Simon Fan & Chen Lin & Daniel Treisman, 2010. "Embezzlement Versus Bribery," NBER Working Papers 16542, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior


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