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Does corruption produce unsafe drivers?

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  • Marianne Bertrand
  • Simeon Djankov
  • Rema Hanna
  • Sendhil Mullainathan

Abstract

We follow 822 applicants through the process of obtaining a driver's license in New Delhi, India. To understand how the bureaucracy responds to individual and social needs, participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: bonus, lesson, and comparison groups. Participants in the bonus group were offered a financial reward if they could obtain their license fast; participants in the lesson group were offered free driving lessons. To gauge driving skills, we performed a surprise driving test after participants had obtained their licenses. Several interesting facts regarding corruption emerge. First, the bureaucracy responds to individual needs. Those who want their license faster (e.g. the bonus group), get it 40% faster and at a 20% higher rate. Second, the bureaucracy is insensitive to social needs. The bonus group does not learn to drive safely in order to obtain their license: in fact, 69% of them were rated as "failures" on the independent driving test. Those in the lesson group, despite superior driving skills, are only slightly more likely to obtain a license than the comparison group and far less likely (by 29 percentage points) than the bonus group. Detailed surveys allow us to document the mechanisms of corruption. We find that bureaucrats arbitrarily fail drivers at a high rate during the driving exam, irrespective of their ability to drive. To overcome this, individuals pay informal "agents" to bribe the bureaucrat and avoid taking the exam altogether. An audit study of agents further highlights the insensitivity of agents' pricing to driving skills. Together, these results suggest that bureaucrats raise red tape to extract bribes and that this corruption undermines the very purpose of regulation.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne Bertrand & Simeon Djankov & Rema Hanna & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2006. "Does corruption produce unsafe drivers?," Natural Field Experiments 00218, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00218
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "The Regulation of Entry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 1-37.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hunt, Jennifer, 2007. "How corruption hits people when they are down," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 574-589, November.
    2. Olken, Benjamin A., 2009. "Corruption perceptions vs. corruption reality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 950-964, August.
    3. Duflo, Esther & Glennerster, Rachel & Kremer, Michael, 2008. "Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    4. Giovanni Immordino & Marco Pagano, 2010. "Legal Standards, Enforcement, and Corruption," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(5), pages 1104-1132, September.
    5. Pande, Rohini, 2008. "Understanding Political Corruption in Low Income Countries," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    6. Singh, Nirvikar, 2007. "Fiscal Federalism and Decentralization in India," MPRA Paper 1447, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Singh, Nirvikar, 2007. "Fiscal Federalism and Decentralization in India∗," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt11b543tk, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    8. Ahmed Taneem Muzaffar & S. S. M. Sadrul Huda, 2011. "Does Corruption Lead To Welfare Loss? An Empirical Evidence From Real Estate Sector of Bangladesh," Organizations and Markets in Emerging Economies, Faculty of Economics, Vilnius University, vol. 2(1).
    9. Ivan T. Kandilov & Thomas Grennes, 2010. "The determinants of service exports from Central and Eastern Europe," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 18(4), pages 763-794, October.
    10. Ferraz, Claudio & Finan, Frederico S., 2007. "Electoral Accountability and Corruption in Local Governments: Evidence from Audit Reports," IZA Discussion Papers 2843, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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