IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Can Openness Deter Corruption? The Role of Foreign Direct Investment


  • Larrain B., Felipe
  • Tavares, José


The economics literature provides ample evidence that higher corruption discourages FDI inflows. In this paper we address, for the first time in the literature in a systematic way, the exact reverse link, i.e., the empirical effect of FDI inflows on corruption. We present a simple model that illustrates the two-way relationship between foreign direct investment and corruption, identifying exactly the direction of causality that we address: how do “exogenous“ variations in FDI affect the degree of corruption in the host country. Our dataset covers a wide group of countries for the period 1981 – 2000, and we confront the issue of causality by constructing an original set of instrumental variables relying on geographical and cultural distance between FDI source and host countries to measure exogenous time-varying changes in FDI inflows. We find that FDI inflows (as a share of GDP) significantly decrease corruption in the host country. The quantitative impact of FDI inflows on corruption is stronger than the impact of trade openness and tariff rates on corruption and is validated by the use of instrumental variables. The results are robust to the inclusion of several determinants of openness, in addition to trade intensity and the average tariff level, including dependence on natural resources, ethnic fractionalization, size of the economy and government expenditure. Quantitatively, the impact of FDI inflows on corruption is of the same order of magnitude as the impact of per capita income on corruption.

Suggested Citation

  • Larrain B., Felipe & Tavares, José, 2007. "Can Openness Deter Corruption? The Role of Foreign Direct Investment," CEPR Discussion Papers 6488, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6488

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 1999. "The Quality of Government," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 222-279, April.
    2. Rafael Di Tella & Alberto Ades, 1999. "Rents, Competition, and Corruption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 982-993, September.
    3. Daniel Kaufmann & Shang-Jin Wei, 1999. "Does "Grease Money" Speed Up the Wheels of Commerce?," NBER Working Papers 7093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Shang-Jin Wei, 1997. "Why is Corruption So Much More Taxing Than Tax? Arbitrariness Kills," NBER Working Papers 6255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Shang-Jin Wei, 2000. "Natural openness and good government," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2411, The World Bank.
    6. Thorvaldur Gylfason & Gylfi Zoega, 2006. "Natural Resources and Economic Growth: The Role of Investment," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(8), pages 1091-1115, August.
    7. Brock, William A & Magee, Stephen P, 1978. "The Economics of Special Interest Politics: The Case of the Tariff," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 246-250, May.
    8. Sachs, J-D & Warner, A-M, 1995. "Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth," Papers 517a, Harvard - Institute for International Development.
    9. Beata K. Smarzynska & Shang-Jin Wei, 2000. "Corruption and Composition of Foreign Direct Investment: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Joshua Aizenman & Mark M. Spiegel, 2006. "Institutional Efficiency, Monitoring Costs and the Investment Share of FDI," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(4), pages 683-697, September.
    11. Bhagwati, Jagdish N, 1982. "Directly Unproductive, Profit-seeking (DUP) Activities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 988-1002, October.
    12. Gökhan Karahan & Laura Razzolini & William Shughart, 2006. "No Pretense to Honesty: County Government Corruption in Mississippi," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 211-227, August.
    13. Krueger, Anne O, 1974. "The Political Economy of the Rent-Seeking Society," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(3), pages 291-303, June.
    14. Fisman, Raymond & Gatti, Roberta, 2002. "Decentralization and corruption: evidence across countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(3), pages 325-345, March.
    15. Carlos A Leite & Jens Weidmann, 1999. "Does Mother Nature Corrupt? Natural Resources, Corruption, and Economic Growth," IMF Working Papers 99/85, International Monetary Fund.
    16. Shang-Jin Wei, 2000. "How Taxing is Corruption on International Investors?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(1), pages 1-11, February.
    17. Bliss, Christopher & Di Tella, Rafael, 1997. "Does Competition Kill Corruption?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 1001-1023, October.
    18. Philip R. Lane & Aaron Tornell, 1997. "Voracity and Growth," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1807, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    19. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong-Wha, 1994. "Sources of economic growth," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-46, June.
    20. Rose-Ackerman, Susan, 1975. "The economics of corruption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 187-203, February.
    21. Vito Tanzi, 1998. "Corruption Around the World: Causes, Consequences, Scope, and Cures," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 45(4), pages 559-594, December.
    22. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    23. Isaac Ehrlich & Francis T. Lui, 1999. "Bureaucratic Corruption and Endogenous Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 270-293, December.
    24. Vito Tanzi & Hamid R Davoodi, 1997. "Corruption, Public Investment, and Growth," IMF Working Papers 97/139, International Monetary Fund.
    25. Gylfason, Thorvaldur, 2004. "Natural Resources and Economic Growth: From Dependence to Diversification," CEPR Discussion Papers 4804, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    26. Mauro, Paolo, 1998. "Corruption and the composition of government expenditure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 263-279, June.
    27. repec:hrv:faseco:30747160 is not listed on IDEAS
    28. Bhagwati, Jagdish N & Srinivasan, T N, 1980. "Revenue Seeking: A Generalization of the Theory of Tariffs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(6), pages 1069-1087, December.
    29. Vito Tanzi, 1998. "Corruption Around the World; Causes, Consequences, Scope, and Cures," IMF Working Papers 98/63, International Monetary Fund.
    30. Paolo Mauro, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712.
    31. Vito Tanzi, 1994. "Corruption, Governmental Activities, and Markets," IMF Working Papers 94/99, International Monetary Fund.
    32. Gatti, Roberta, 1999. "Corruption and trade tariffs, or a case for uniform tariffs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2216, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Bin Dong & Benno Torgler, 2010. "The Consequences of Corruption: Evidence from China," Working Papers 2010.73, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    2. Kasekende, Elizabeth & Abuka, Charles & Sarr, Mare, 2016. "Extractive industries and corruption: Investigating the effectiveness of EITI as a scrutiny mechanism," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 117-128.
    3. Verdier, Thierry, 2010. "Ouverture, conflits et capacité étatique : une perspective d’économie politique," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 86(4), pages 415-449, décembre.

    More about this item


    Corruption; Foreign Direct Investment; Instrumental Variables; International Trade; Tariffs;

    JEL classification:

    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F30 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - General
    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6488. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.