Doing the Survey Two-Step: The Effects of Reticence on Estimates of Corruption in Two-Stage Survey Questions

  • Nona Karalashvili
  • Aart Kraay
  • Peter Murrell
Part of the International Economic Association Series book series (IEA)


This paper develops a structural approach for modeling how respondents answer survey questions and uses it to estimate the proportion of respondents who are reticent in answering corruption questions, as well as the extent to which reticent behavior biases conventional estimates of corruption downwards. The context is a common two-step question, first inquiring whether a government official visited a business, and then asking about bribery if a visit was acknowledged. Reticence is a concern for both steps, since denying a visit side-steps the bribe question. This paper considers two alternative models of how reticence affects responses to two-step questions, with differing assumptions on how reticence affects the first question about visits. Maximum-likelihood estimates are obtained for seven countries using data on interactions with tax officials. Different models work best in different countries, but cross-country comparisons are still valid because both models use the same structural parameters. On average 40% of corruption questions are answered reticently, with much variation across countries. A statistic reflecting how much standard measures underestimate the proportion of all respondents who had a bribe interaction is developed. The downward bias in standard measures is highly statistically significant in all countries, varying from 12% in Nigeria to 90% in Turkey. The source of bias varies widely across countries, between denying a visit and denying a bribe after admitting a visit.


Corruption measures Structural estimation Reticence World Bank enterprise surveys 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The World BankWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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