Corruption along ethnic lines: A study of individual corruption experiences in 17 African countries
While a growing literature relates macro variation in corruption to ethnic divisions, existing studies have paid little attention to the possible existence of systematic micro variation in corruption along ethnic lines. The present paper examines whether individual corruption experiences vary systematically depending on ethnic group affiliation, and what the nature of this possible variation is. More specifically, it considers the effect of belonging to influential ethnic groups. Empirical findings drawing on data for more than 23,000 respondents in 17 African countries indeed suggest that individual corruption experiences vary systematically along ethnic lines. Belonging to influential ethnic groups – in terms of relative group size or relative economic and political standing – is associated with a greater probability of having experienced corruption. Assuming that belonging to a larger and economically/politically stronger group helps proxy for a greater probability of the corrupt public official being a co-ethnic, this should imply more corruption among co-ethnics, supporting the idea that enforcement mechanisms within ethnic groups could act to strengthen corrupt contracts. The results depend on the type of corruption considered, though; when focusing on a more clearly extortive form of corruption, there is less evidence of collusive behaviour.
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