Transparency and Corruption: Evidence from India
Theories of corruption suggest that higher levels of transparency are necessarily associated with lower levels of corruption. Yet in highly hierarchical societies in which the gulf between government officials and the most underprivileged members of society is very wide, this relationship may not hold. In this paper, I test the link between transparency and corruption by means of a field experiment. I ask how effective recourse to a freedom-of-information law is in comparison to bribery for both slum dwellers and middle-class individuals in India as they apply for basic public services. I demonstrate that applicants who make use of the freedom-of-information law attain almost the same rate of success as those who bribe. Recourse to a freedom-of-information law comes close to erasing class differences; that is, it results in comparable processing times for slum dwellers and middle-class individuals.
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