Bribing and Social Desirability in Peru: A Mixed Methods Approach



What could lead some individuals to be more prone to lie about engaging in corruption? We contend that a psychological approach to the study of corruption can be employed to understand who lies about corrupt behavior and why. Since social desirability bias (SDB) is related to the appropriateness of behavior, conflicting social norms in a context where corruption is widespread— like in several Latin American countries—can result in SDB in the context of surveys that directly ask for past corrupt behavior. Moreover, due to conflicting norms, some subgroups of the population might be particularly affected by SDB. Methodology: Together, focus groups, list experiments, and survey data provide evidence that supports our psychological approach. Conclusion: Overall, we confirm that SDB is at work even in a context in which corruption is widespread like Peru. Statistically speaking, we only find evidence in support of the existence of gender socialization as an important source of SDB when directly reporting past bribing behavior in Peru. However, other substantive—not statistically significant—differences related to age merit further discussion and research. Originality: This work has two main contributions; first, it highlights the importance designing unobtrusive measures when studying the prevalence of corrupt practices in Latin America; and second, it shows that policy interventions to fight corruption may not be equally effective across different groups of the population.


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