Individual decision making is shaped by a combination of internal and external constraints. While a lot of research has focused on external constraints (such as institutions and social norms) on an individual’s behavior, there has been relatively little focus on the importance of internal constraints. Such internal constraints may be ideas of morality, self-image and guilt that reflect some combination of internalized institutional and social norms as well as moral concerns. In this research paper, we examine the relationship between internal constraints and external constraints, in order to throw light on some of the behavioral roots of corruptibility.
A central focus of our investigation is the examination of whether internal constraints differ from and are independent of the quality of institutional enforcement and prevailing social norms. Accordingly, we will examine the impact of such constraints on the productivity, corruptibility and decision making of individuals in the workplace. We will conduct a couple of related (but conceptually distinct) experimental interventions in the same setting. Our plan is to describe these results in possibly two papers. Whether the results are presented as one or many papers depends on a number of factors, but we have in mind that intervention (iv) could be distinct from the rest if the findings. We could equally see combining the results into one paper with a broader scope.
In late Summer 2019 and early Fall, the SNE International Organization helped set-up a data entry firm in Arusha Tanzania to run several pilots and conduct surveys. Using the information collected, over the next several months SNE has/will recruit individuals as temporary day workers to complete data entry work. Each worker completes a data entry task that is assigned to them by a supervisor. Together, the supervisor and the worker form a team. The supervisor belongs to two different teams (i.e. assigns works to two different workers). In each team the worker completes a series of data entry tasks under very different institutional environments. The aim of the experiment is to examine productivity, reporting and accuracy as well as the possibility of side payments under alternative payment and monitoring conditions. As part of this ongoing data collection effort we are also conducting a Pope and DellaVigna (2018) component that assesses the ability of other non-participants to forecast the impact of alternative treatments on worker behavior in Arusha, Canada and (possibly) Burundi. Given Covid-19 related delays, we expect (hope) the data collection for the field work (including data collection / data entry) to be completed by December 2020.
Within each team we randomly vary working conditions to examine whether workers and supervisors would collude to earn more money from the project. In particular, the main things we varied was the institutional environment (i.e. whether workers expected monitoring or not). In addition, we also vary the incentive structure on other dimensions that have the potential to weaken internal constraints on worker-supervisor performance and behavior.
We supplement this information with two surveys. First, is that on agreeing to be temporarily employed by the firm, all supervisors and workers filled out a survey to elicit background information as well as a measure that provides us with a measure to gauge willingness to engage in corruption as an individual (i.e. weak internal constraints). We also collect a similar lab-based altruism measure from the supervisors. As part of the experiment, all subjects then complete their forms. Finally, after the work is completed, they fill out an exit survey that also elicits their beliefs about corruption.
We hypothesize that there will be heterogeneity in the extent to which workers and supervisors comply with the instructions that they have been given. We examine the hypothesis of whether more trust strengthens internal norms against corruption. Accordingly, we examine whether or not teams who feel trusted engage in less corruption. At the same time, we would like to examine whether there is a corruption contagion effect, where being teamed together with a more dishonest individual may weaken internal constraints and increase the level of corruption. We hypothesize that the pay structure likely matters for corruption as well, in the spirit of Olken (2010).