Barfort, Sebastian, Harmon, Nikolaj, Hjorth, Frederik & Olsen, Asmus Leth (forthcoming). Sustaining Honesty in Public Service: The Role of Selection. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

ABSTRACT: We study the role of self-selection into public service in sustaining honesty in the public sector. Focusing on the world’s least corrupt country, Denmark, we use a survey experiment to document strong self-selection of more honest individuals into public service. This result differs sharply from existing findings from more corrupt settings. Differences in pro-social vs. pecuniary motivation appear central to the observed selection pattern. Dishonest individuals are more pecuniarily motivated and self-select out of public service and into higher-paying private sector jobs. Accordingly, we find that increasing public sector wages would attract more dishonest candidates to public service in Denmark.

Olsen, Asmus Leth, Hjorth, Frederik, Harmon, Nikolaj, & Barfort, Sebastian (forthcoming). Behavioral Dishonesty in the Public Sector. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.

ABSTRACT: We investigate the usefulness of the dice game paradigm to public administration as a standard- ized way of measuring (dis)honesty among individuals, groups, and societies. Measures of dis- honesty are key for the field’s progress in understanding individual, organizational, and societal differences in unethical behavior and corruption. We first describe the dice game paradigm and its advantages and then discuss a range of considerations for how to implement it. Next, we highlight the potential of the dice game paradigm across two diverse studies: prospective public employees in Denmark (n = 441) and prospective public employees in 10 different countries with very differ- ent levels of corruption (n = 1,091). In the first study, we show how individual-level behavioral dishonesty is very strongly correlated with public service motivation. In the second study, we find that widely used country-level indicators of corruption are strongly correlated with the average behavioral dishonesty among prospective public employees. The results illustrate the importance of the validated dice game paradigm to shed light on core questions that link micro- and macro- level dynamics of dishonesty and corruption in the public sector.


Barfort, Sebastian; Harmon, Nikolaj; Hjorth, Frederik and Olsen, Asmus Leth (2015). A Formal Model of Corruption, Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service.

ABSTRACT: Recent empirical studies have found that in high corruption countries, inherently more dishonest individuals are more likely to want to enter into public service, while the reverse is true in low corruption countries. In this note, we provide a simple formal model that rationalizes this empirical pattern as the result of countries being stuck in different selfsustaining equilibria where high levels of corruption and negative selection into public service are mutually reinforcing.