Comparing Corruption in the Laboratory and in the Field in Burkina Faso and in Canada


  • We thank the editor, as well as four anonymous referees for helpful comments. We are grateful to O. Al-Ubaydli, J. Engle-Warwick, G. Gaudet, G. Harrison, J. Heroux, A. Hollander, J. List, C. Montmarquette, S. Daw Namoro. We also thank seminar and conference participants at the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Boston, SUNY Stony Brook, UC Santa Barbara, NYU, the ESA meeting in Tucson, the CSAE Conference in Oxford, the IMEBE in Alicante, the New Techniques in Development Workshop in Canberra, the CEA in Vancouver and the SCSE in Montebello. We thank the recruiting firm Opty-RH for its help with hiring subjects in Burkina Faso. Finally, the authors gratefully acknowledge financing from the CRSH. As always, all remaining errors are ours. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Federal Reserve System or the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.


We investigate the external validity of corruption experiments by conducting the same experiment in three different environments: a laboratory in a developed country, a laboratory in a developing country and the field in a developing country. In the experiment, a candidate proposes a bribe to a grader to obtain a better grade. We find the direction and magnitude of several treatment effects to be statistically indistinguishable across the three environments. In particular, increasing the graders’ wage reduces the probability of accepting the bribe but promotes reciprocation. Our results therefore provide evidence that laboratory experiments on corruption can have empirical relevance.