Oct 22, 2013

Does Unethical Behavior Affect Choice of Profession: Public vs. Private Sector?

We studied worker self-selection into a corrupt workplace environment using a laboratory experiment with university students in India who were either private sector job aspirants or public sector aspirants (wanting to join the Indian bureaucracy). We investigated whether ones propensity to engage in unethical behavior can explain the career choice between the public and private sector. We divided the subjects into two groups: workers and supervisors. The workers performed in a real-eff ort task and the supervisors evaluated their work and sent them their earnings in tokens, which is a medium of exchange in laboratories. The supervisors had to claim the required number of tokens needed to pay the workers. The measure of cheating that we used in our experiment was the di fference between the number of tokens claimed by the supervisors and the number of tokens sent to the workers. Among the subjects, 64.5 percent engaged in unethical behavior. We then linked this cheating behavior to their future career choice. We found a signifi cant di fference in cheating behavior between public sector and private sector aspirants. Sixty-four percent of the private sector aspirants vs. 70 percent of the public sector aspirants engaged in unethical behavior. The proportion of public sector aspirants who engaged in unethical behavior was not statistically signi ficantly di fferent from that of private sector aspirants. However, the amount of cheating among public sector aspirants was signi ficantly greater than among private sector aspirants. Public sector aspirants cheated 51.5 percent more than those planning to pursue careers in the private sector.
The abstract is from this paper by Ritwik BanerjeeTushi Baul, & Tanya Rosenblat.

The figure shows the distribution of the amount of cheating of public and private sector aspirants.

Figure 5 in the paper (page 13) is also interesting, although a little bit confusing. 

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