Public-Sector Honesty and Corruption: Field Evidence from 40 Countries

Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan*, Markus Tepe, Omer Yair

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study presents a theoretical model of honest behavior in the public sector (public-sector honesty) and its relationship with corruption. We test this model empirically by utilizing and extending a unique data set of honest behavior of public- and private-sector workers across 40 countries, gathered in a field experiment conducted by Cohn et al. (N = 17,303). We find that public-sector honesty is determined by country-level societal culture and public-sector culture; public-sector honesty predicts corruption levels, independently from the effect of incentive structures - in line with the Becker-Stigler model. We find no support for a global mean difference in honest behavior between public- and private-sector workers, alongside substantive cross-country variation in sector differences in honest behavior. The emphasis assigned to honesty of public-sector workers within each country appears to be locally determined by the prevailing public-sector culture. These results imply that beyond cross-national variation in the scope of publicness, it is very content may vary across countries. Lastly, the results of this study consistently fail to support the selection thesis, and we discuss the practical implications of this result for anticorruption policy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)310-325
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partly supported by a commissioned project (H25-Shinko-Ippan-012) for Research on Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and the Research Program (H26-Shinkojitsuyoka-Ippan-004 and 17fk0108107j0001 to YS, 17fk0108107h0401 to KH, 17fk0108107h1201 to TKS) on Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases from Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Public Management Research Association.


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