Where the Action Is: A Conceptual and Experimental Evaluation of Measurement, Dynamics, and Reputational Incentives in Corrupt Transactions

Principal Investigator

Diana Dakhlallah
Sociology Department, Stanford School of Humanities & Sciences


Stanford Graduate School of Business
Research Locations Morocco
Award Date March 2017
Award Type PhD Fellowship


My work focuses on corrupt transactions, specifically bribe exchanges, between frontline providers and citizens in the Moroccan public healthcare sector. The distinguishing feature of my work lies in its systematic focus on the interaction as the primary unit of analysis. In my dissertation, I demonstrate the theoretical and empirical insights a microanalytic lens offers in the study of transactional corruption. This perspective also forms the conceptual backbone of the empirical work I do for my dissertation. The central empirical question my dissertation examines is whether reputational incentives reduce corruption in public service provision. I designed and implemented a field experiment in five public hospitals in Morocco. I designed this study to isolate the effect of reputational threat on bribe exchanges. The posited incentive that leads to behavior change of providers is image management. The presumed mechanism through which this incentive operates is the social emotion of shame, which is channeled by the social-psychological desire to be well-regarded by others, specifically one’s peers at work. My dissertation also grapples with a number of conceptual issues related to dynamics and measurement of transactional corruption, as well as a series of empirical patterns pertaining to the link between corruption and quality of care, corruption and resource constraints, corruption and discretion, and corruption and the structure of the human capital pool.