Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Who Gets Bribed? Social Capital and Street-Level Corruption in Latin America

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Pablo Sanabria, University de los Andes and Laura Langbein, American University
Who gets bribed? Social capital and street-level corruption in Latin America

Corruption is a defining characteristic of several developing counties. Defined as an exchange of a public service for an “extra” payment from individual citizen to public employee, it implies wasteful use of scarce resources that is particularly harmful in poorer countries. Its apparent stability or “stickiness” also implies that it is a wicked problem. We suspect that one reason that corruption is such a challenging social problem in developing countries is that it is part of the fabric of a local community. Accordingly, this paper explores the relationship between who gets asked for a bribe when requesting or using local public services, and individual and local norms, including trust and local community participation. We rely on individual level data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) in twenty Latin American countries, for the period 2004-2012. We find that people who are: more educated; younger; richer; male; married; not Catholic; but more trusting in others and lesslikely to participate in community groups face a higher probability of having been asked to pay a bribe. We also find substantial between country differences; we suspect there are even larger differences between local areas within countries. Our results provide strong evidence regarding the close connection between individual and local norms, community and corruption at the individual level in the context of Latin American countries. The close relation among these variables makes corruption a particularly difficult policy problem.

[1] The authors are thankful for the valuable assistance provided by Nicolás Acevedo, research assistant at the Alberto Lleras Camargo School of Government.