Contagious Corruption: Cross-Country Comparisons

42 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2019

See all articles by Arthur J. H. C. Schram

Arthur J. H. C. Schram

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB); Tinbergen Institute

Jin Di Zheng

Nanjing Audit University

Tatyana Zhuravleva

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: November 15, 2019


We investigate how prescriptive and descriptive norms affect the development of corruption over time. In particular, we are interested in whether the extent of corruption converges. If it does, we study how the level at which it converges depends on the prescriptive norms in the environment in which it takes place and on the information individuals have about others’ corrupt choices, that is, on descriptive norms. In a laboratory experiment implemented in Italy, China and the Netherlands, a Gneezy-type corruption task is used, with a real-effort task. We use a Krupka-Weber elicitation method to obtain information about existing prescriptive norms with respect to corrupt behavior. To induce natural variation in descriptive norms, we vary the type of information about others’ choices. Our results show that corruption is highly contagious everywhere, that is, descriptive norms affect choices. Nevertheless, differences in the effects of descriptive norms are evident across countries. Prescriptive norms concerning bribers’ and judges’ behaviors are observed to differ across the considered subject pools. While in China and the Netherlands it is highly socially inappropriate to bribe and, if you are a decision maker, to treat unfavorably people with high efforts and low bribes, in Italy the norms are the opposite.

Keywords: bribery, corruption

JEL Classification: C91, D73

Suggested Citation

Schram, Arthur J. H. C. and Zheng, Jin Di and Zhuravleva, Tatyana, Contagious Corruption: Cross-Country Comparisons (November 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Arthur J. H. C. Schram

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) ( email )

Roetersstraat 18
Amsterdam 1018 WB
+31 (0)20 525 4293 (Phone)


Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

Jin Di Zheng

Nanjing Audit University ( email )

Minxing Building,86 West Yushan Road, Pukou Distr
Nanjing, Jiangsu

Tatyana Zhuravleva (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Soyza Pechatnikov str., 15
St. Petersburg, 190068

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