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Enforcement and Public Corruption: Evidence from US States

  • James E. Alt

    (Department of Government, Harvard University)

  • David Dreyer Lassen

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

We use high-quality panel data on corruption convictions, new panels of assistant U.S. attorneys and relative public sector wages, and careful attention to the consequences of modeling endogeneity to estimate the impact of prosecutorial resources on criminal convictions of those who undertake corrupt acts. Consistent with “system capacity” arguments, we find that greater prosecutor resources result in more convictions for corruption, other things equal. We find more limited, recent evidence for the deterrent effect of increased prosecutions. We control for and confirm in a panel context the effects of many previously identified correlates and causes of corruption. By explicitly determining the allocation of prosecutorial resources endogenously from past corruption convictions and political considerations, we show that this specification leads to larger estimates of the effect of resources on convictions. The results are robust to various ways of measuring the number of convictions as well as to various estimators.

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Paper provided by Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series EPRU Working Paper Series with number 2010-08.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:epruwp:10-08
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  1. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini & Francesco Trebbi, 2001. "Electoral Rules and Corruption," CESifo Working Paper Series 416, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Craig Depken & Courtney Lafountain, 2006. "Fiscal consequences of public corruption: Empirical evidence from state bond ratings," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 126(1), pages 75-85, January.
  3. James E. Alt & David D. Lassen, 2008. "Political And Judicial Checks On Corruption: Evidence From American State Governments," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(1), pages 33-61, 03.
  4. Rajeev Goel & Michael Nelson, 2011. "Government fragmentation versus fiscal decentralization and corruption," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(3), pages 471-490, September.
  5. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan, 2009. "Motivating Politicians: The Impacts of Monetary Incentives on Quality and Performance," NBER Working Papers 14906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 1999. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7449, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Eric Rasmusen & Manu Raghav, & Mark Ramseyer, 2008. "Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor’s Choice," Working Papers 2008-16, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  8. Di Tella, Rafael & Schargrodsky, Ernesto, 2003. "The Role of Wages and Auditing during a Crackdown on Corruption in the City of Buenos Aires," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(1), pages 269-92, April.
  9. Stock, James H & Wright, Jonathan H & Yogo, Motohiro, 2002. "A Survey of Weak Instruments and Weak Identification in Generalized Method of Moments," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(4), pages 518-29, October.
  10. Anne van Aaken & Lars P. Feld & Stefan Voigt, 2010. "Do Independent Prosecutors Deter Political Corruption? An Empirical Evaluation across Seventy-eight Countries," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 204-244.
  11. Ferraz, Claudio & Finan, Frederico S., 2007. "Exposing Corrupt Politicians: The Effects of Brazil’s Publicly Released Audits on Electoral Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 2836, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Joel Waldfogel, 1994. " The Effect of Criminal Conviction on Income and the Trust "Reposed in the Workmen"," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(1), pages 62-81.
  13. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Pop-Eleches, Cristian & Shleifer, Andrei, 2004. "Judicial Checks and Balances," Scholarly Articles 3451311, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Bar-Gill, O. & Harel, A., 2000. "Crime Rates and Expected Sanctions: The Economics of Deterrence Revisited," Papers 2000-14, Tel Aviv.
  15. Goel, Rajeev K & Nelson, Michael A, 1998. " Corruption and Government Size: A Disaggregated Analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 97(1-2), pages 107-20, October.
  16. Paldam, Martin, 2002. "The cross-country pattern of corruption: economics, culture and the seesaw dynamics," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 215-240, June.
  17. James E. Alt & David Dreyer Lassen, 2002. "The Political Economy of Institutions and Corruption in American States," EPRU Working Paper Series 02-16, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  18. Van Rijckeghem, Caroline & Weder, Beatrice, 2001. "Bureaucratic corruption and the rate of temptation: do wages in the civil service affect corruption, and by how much?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 307-331, August.
  19. Rajeev Goel & Daniel Rich, 1989. "On the economic incentives for taking bribes," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(3), pages 269-275, June.
  20. Besley, Timothy & McLaren, John, 1993. "Taxes and Bribery: The Role of Wage Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(416), pages 119-41, January.
  21. Rajeev Goel & Michael Nelson, 2011. "Measures of corruption and determinants of US corruption," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 155-176, June.
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