The Power of Example: Corruption Spurs Corruption
- American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (Forthcoming)
Does political corruption erode civic values and foster dishonest behavior?
I test this hypothesis in the context of Mexico by combining data on local
government corruption and cheating on school tests. I find that, following
revelations of corruption by local officials, secondary students' cheating on
cognitive tests increases significantly. The effect is large and robust and persists
for over a year after malfeasance is revealed. These findings are validated
by evidence from individual survey data, which documents that individuals
interviewed right after corruption is revealed report being less honest, less
trustworthy, and more prone to thinking that cheating is necessary to succeed,
compared to similar individuals interviewed just beforehand.
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