Misunderestimating Corruption

Estimates of the extent of corruption rely largely on self-reports of individuals, business managers, and government officials. Yet it is well known that survey respondents are reticent to tell the truth about activities to which social and legal stigma are attached, implying a downward bias in survey-based estimates of corruption.

The newly-released World Bank research paper, Misunderestimating Corruption, develops a method to estimate the prevalence of reticent behavior, in order to isolate rates of corruption that fully reflect respondent reticence in answering sensitive questions. The method is based on a statistical model of how respondents behave when answering a combination of conventional and random-response survey questions.

The responses to these different types of questions reflect three probabilities: (1) that the respondent has done the sensitive act in question, (2) that the respondent exhibits reticence in answering sensitive questions, and (3)
that a reticent respondent is not candid in answering any specific sensitive question.

These probabilities can be estimated using a method-of-moments estimator. Reticence-adjusted estimates of corruption are also substantially higher in a set of ten Asian countries covered in the Gallup World Poll.

Following are the summary results from the Random Response Questions in Gallup World Poll Asian Countries–

corruption-gallup world poll asian

And below is the reticence-adjusted and unadjusted (naïve) estimates of guilt and effective reticence for the Gallup World Poll Asian Countries–

corruption-gallup-reticence adjustment

The complete report here.


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