The Contagious Effect of Corruption Scandals on Dishonest Behavior

Contagious Dishonesty: Corruption Scandals and Supermarket Theft

This study investigates whether corruption scandals influence the likelihood of supermarket customers engaging in dishonest behavior, specifically stealing while using self-service checkout systems. These systems enable shoppers to underreport the value of their purchases. The research, based on random audits of shoppers, reveals that the probability of stealing increases by 16 percent following a local corruption scandal. Importantly, this increase is not driven by changes in material incentives but rather by a decrease in the perceived cost of stealing, suggesting that dishonest behavior can be contagious.

Gulino, Giorgio, and Federico Masera. 2023. “Contagious Dishonesty: Corruption Scandals and Supermarket Theft.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 15 (4): 218-51.


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