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Cultures of Corruption: Evidence From Diplomatic Parking Tickets

  • Raymond Fisman
  • Edward Miguel

Corruption is believed to be a major factor impeding economic development, but the importance of legal enforcement versus cultural norms in controlling corruption is poorly understood. To disentangle these two factors, we exploit a natural experiment, the stationing of thousands of diplomats from around the world in New York City. Diplomatic immunity means there was essentially zero legal enforcement of diplomatic parking violations, allowing us to examine the role of cultural norms alone. This generates a revealed preference measure of government officials' corruption based on real-world behavior taking place in the same setting. We find strong persistence in corruption norms: diplomats from high corruption countries (based on existing survey-based indices) have significantly more parking violations, and these differences persist over time. In a second main result, officials from countries that survey evidence indicates have less favorable popular views of the United States commit significantly more parking violations, providing non-laboratory evidence on sentiment in economic decision-making. Taken together, factors other than legal enforcement appear to be important determinants of corruption.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12312.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
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Publication status: published as Fisman, Raymond and Edward Miguel. “Corruption, Norms and Legal Enforcement: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets." Journal of Political Economy 115, 6 (2007): 1020-1048.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12312
Note: LE
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  8. Schiavo-Campo, Salvatore & de Tommaso, Giulio & Mukherjee, Amitabha, 1997. "An international statistical survey of government employment and wages," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1806, The World Bank.
  9. Ilyana Kuziemko & Eric Werker, 2006. "How Much Is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(5), pages 905-930, October.
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