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The Smuggling of Art, and the Art of Smuggling: Uncovering the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property and Antiques

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  • Raymond Fisman
  • Shang-Jin Wei

Abstract

We empirically analyze the illicit trade in cultural property and antiques, taking advantage of different reporting incentives between source and destination countries. We thus generate a measure of illicit trafficking in these goods based on the difference between imports recorded in United States' customs data and the (purportedly identical) trade as recorded by customs authorities in exporting countries. We find that this reporting gap is highly correlated with the corruption level of the exporting country as measured by commonly used survey-based indicies, and that this correlation is stronger for artifact-rich countries. As a placebo test, we do not observe any such pattern for U.S. imports of toys from these same exporters. We report similar results for four other Western country markets. Our analysis provides a useful framework for studying trade in illicit goods. Further, our results provide empirical confirmation that survey-based corruption indicies are informative, as they are correlated with an objective measure of illicit activity.

Suggested Citation

  • Raymond Fisman & Shang-Jin Wei, 2007. "The Smuggling of Art, and the Art of Smuggling: Uncovering the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property and Antiques," NBER Working Papers 13446, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13446
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. de Sousa, José & Mayer, Thierry & Zignago, Soledad, 2012. "Market access in global and regional trade," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 1037-1052.
    2. Raymond Fisman & Edward Miguel, 2007. "Corruption, Norms, and Legal Enforcement: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 1020-1048, December.
    3. Prachi Mishra & Arvind Subramanian & Petia Topalova, 2007. "Policies, Enforcement, and Customs Evasion; Evidence from India," IMF Working Papers 07/60, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Dean Yang, 2008. "Can Enforcement Backfire? Crime Displacement in the Context of Customs Reform in the Philippines," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(1), pages 1-14, February.
    5. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/10187 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature

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