Corruption, attitudes, and education: Survey evidence from Nepal

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Social norms can reduce the costs of corrupt behavior and push a society toward a high-corruption equilibrium, but what determines individual attitudes toward corruption? How does acceptance vary across different types of corrupt behavior? An original survey of Kathmandu residents shows substantial variation in attitudes toward different types of corrupt behavior. Overall, respondents generally agreed that large-scale bribery was unacceptable, but there was relative discord over behaviors involving petty corruption, gift giving, and favoritism. Education consistently emerged as the primary determinant of these attitudes, with more educated respondents showing less accepting attitudes across the range of corrupt behaviors. These findings suggest that improving access to education in developing countries may reduce the presence of corruption norms and ultimately corruption itself, although further research is needed to test the strength of these relationships outside of Nepal.

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