Citizen Participation in Corruption: Evidence from Roadway Tolls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Otis Reid and Jonathan L. Weigel. 2017. PDF.

Abstract: Why is corruption so resilient? While many recent papers examine interventions seeking to discipline bureaucrats, less is known about the citizen side of corruption. This randomized controlled trial is designed to explore three components of citizen supply of bribes in the context of roadway tolls in Kananga, D.R. Congo: individual financial cost, perceived social cost, and social norms. We offer financial and social incentives to motorcycle taxi drivers to bring receipts proving that they paid the legal toll. Observing a 7 to 10 percent increase in the probability that drivers get receipts, we estimate an elasticity of citizen supply of bribes ranging from -0.45 to -0.95. Social incentives have no effect. Similarly, providing information about other drivers’ responses to treatment (to shift social norms) does not affect behavior. Drivers’ appear remarkably inelastic in their supply of bribes. We argue this reflects the fact that bribe payment may increase the efficiency of transactions in the toll setting we examine. Drivers reduce the time spent at the toll by nearly 70% if they bribe the toll officer rather than demanding a receipt. The results support the view corruption may “grease the wheels” in settings with low-quality institutions.

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