It’s what anti-establishment campaigners have long suspected: the Government is a magnet for corruption.
In fact, cheating students are more likely to want a job in public service, according to researchers from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvannia.
The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, set 662 students a number of tasks which were predictive of corrupt behavior by real government workers.
The students who wanted to enter public service were also less likely to demonstrate prosocial behavior, or voluntary behavior intended to benefit other people or society as a whole.
The study consisted of three tests. Students in Bangalore, India were asked to roll a dice 42 times and report what number they got. The higher the numbers they reported the more they would get paid.
The researchers discovered that cheating was rampant: more than a third reported numbers that were abnormally high.
When measured against career preferences, students who cheated on the dice game were 6.3 per cent more likely to want a government job.
The same test was given to government nurses, and while cheating was not as rampant, (only 9.1 per cent scored the abnormally high results) amongst those who were thought to have cheated, fraudulent absenteeism was much higher.
“Overall, we find that dishonest individuals — as measured by the dice task — prefer to enter government service,” wrote Hanna and coauthor Shing-yi Wang, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
“Importantly, we show that cheating on this task is also predictive of fraudulent behaviors by real government officials,” they added, pointing to their experiment.
The second set of tasks focused on prosocial behaviour: actions which benefited other people and society. Students were asked to divide a number of rupees between themselves and a charity. However much they gave to charity would be doubled. Those who gave the least to charity were most likely to want to work in government.
However the third game threw up different results. This task allowed students to send a message anonymously to another player, in which they could either tell their peer truthfully how to earn money or lie, which would line their own pockets. The results of this had no correlation to whether they wanted to work in public service.
Researchers suggested this was because participants felt differently about cheating their own peers out of money. It also wasn’t anonymous, in contrast to the dice task.
India has high levels of corruption, ranking 94th out of 176 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index in 2012.
Researchers suggested that some dishonest students might be attract to working in government because it was perceived as corrupt. “If people have the view that jobs in government are corrupt, people who are honest might not want to get into that system,” said Rema Hanna, an associate professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
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