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Transparency and Corruption: Evidence from India


  • Leonid Peisakhin


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonid Peisakhin, 2012. "Transparency and Corruption: Evidence from India," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 129-149.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/663727

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
    3. Jha, Saumitra & Rao, Vijayendra & Woolcock, Michael, 2007. "Governance in the Gullies: Democratic Responsiveness and Leadership in Delhi's Slums," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 230-246, February.
    4. 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.
    5. Olken, Benjamin A., 2006. "Corruption and the costs of redistribution: Micro evidence from Indonesia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 853-870, May.
    6. Wade, Robert, 1985. "The market for public office: Why the Indian state is not better at development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 467-497, April.
    7. Ritva Reinikka & Jakob Svensson, 2005. "Fighting Corruption to Improve Schooling: Evidence from a Newspaper Campaign in Uganda," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 259-267, 04/05.
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    Cited by:

    1. Burlando, Alfredo & Motta, Alberto, 2016. "Legalize, tax, and deter: Optimal enforcement policies for corruptible officials," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 207-215.
    2. Cordis, Adriana S. & Warren, Patrick L., 2014. "Sunshine as disinfectant: The effect of state Freedom of Information Act laws on public corruption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 18-36.

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