Thursday, January 11, 2007

Research on Corruption

More from NYT's profile on 13 most promising economists, is Benjamin A. Olken. His research was focused on corruption:

Mr. Olken, who had won a $550,000 grant from the World Bank, hired 70 people to help him administer his study in more than 600 villages throughout Central and East Java. Each village was already poised to participate in a nationwide community-development project, in which the government paid local workers to pave dirt roads with rock and gravel. [...]

The study included three different approaches to reducing corruption. In some of the villages, Mr. Olken increased the number of government audits of the road projects. In some, he handed out hundreds of invitations that encouraged local villagers to attend public meetings. There, road-project officials accounted for their spending. And in some villages, he distributed anonymous comment forms on which villagers could point out corruption without fear of retribution. The forms were later read aloud at the public meetings.

Mr. Olken found that, contrary to a popular theory that favors grass-roots or community participation as the key to reduced corruption, the traditional top-down monitoring played an important role in reducing corruption, even in a highly corrupt environment.
You can find his published research here. He also has a working paper on there that includes the effect/results of assassinations.

Update: I didn't actually even look over that last paper on assassinations until now. Turns out that Mr. Olken believes.... assassinations work! Brave man, according to his paper:
We find that, on average, successful assassinations of autocrats produce sustained moves toward democracy. We also find that assassinations affect the duration and intensity of small-scale conflicts. These results suggest that individual leaders play key roles in shaping institutions and conflict, and that small sources of randomness, such as perturbations in the path of a single bullet, can have a pronounced effect on history.

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