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Keywords:

  • corruption;
  • field experiment;
  • freedom of information;
  • India;
  • public goods;
  • transparency

Abstract

Can freedom of information laws be harnessed by underprivileged members of society and used to obtain greater access to basic public goods that are otherwise attainable only through bribery? Drawing on a field experiment on access to ration cards among New Delhi's slum dwellers, we demonstrate that India's recently adopted freedom of information law is almost as effective as bribery in helping the poor to secure access to a basic public service. We find support for the theoretical proposition that greater transparency and voice lowers corruption even in highly hierarchical and unequal societies.