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Corruption and anxiety in Sub-Saharan Africa


This paper examines the relationship between individuals’ experience of corruption and their anxiety using microeconomic data from the Afrobarometer surveys. The results show a statistically significant and economically meaningful relationship in probit models using both an experience of corruption index and a simple dummy variable. Having to pay a bribe to obtain documents and permits, to avoid problems with the police or to access medical care are the scenarios in which this relationship is strongest. Some evidence is presented that an individual needs to experience such corruption more than ‘once or twice’ for these relationships to become evident.

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  1. The full data and methodology as well as summary statistics can be obtained from

  2. The Round 2 survey for Mozambique allowed the additional response of ‘always.’ As only a tiny proportion of the sample opted for this option in any of the corruption questions and it was not an option in other countries, I add those who did to the ‘often’ category.

  3. Round 2 asks about paying a bribe to cross a border. I opt not to use this as it is not possible to tell if the bribe is paid to agents of the respondents own country or of another and it was not asked in Mozambique.

  4. Constructing the index using a principal components approach does not alter the results.

  5. While Round 3 does ask about school expenses, I omit this as there are many things which could fall under this category that we may not wish to include in a poverty index such as private school fees.

  6. While it is far from clear that people have a common understanding of ‘always’ and ‘many times’, I am potentially ignoring information by using a dummy variable to measure anxiety. The results of an ordered probit model support the results presented here and are available on request.

  7. Using the Round 2 data, Graham and Hoover (2007) find a negative effect of crime on living conditions. The main difference in their specification is that they use the data on income decile as opposed to a lived poverty index. When I do likewise, I too find that crime and corruption are detrimental to self-reported living conditions. However, when I include both lived poverty and income, neither crime nor corruption is significant at the 5 % level, though corruption is significant at 10 %.

  8. 32 % of the respondents choose this response for the documents and permits question, 28 % for the school placement question, 36 % for the household services question, 22 % for the accessing medicine or medical treatment question and 32 % for the avoiding problems with the police question.

  9. Another way to tackle this issue is to use dummies which contrast those with no experience with those who do but did not experience corruption. The results from this exercise lead to the same conclusions as those presented here.

  10. The physical health dummy is created from the question ‘in the last month, how much of the time has your physical health reduced the amount of work you normally do inside or outside your home?’ The dummy takes a value of one if the respondent answers ‘many times’ or ‘always’ and zero otherwise.


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Correspondence to Robert Gillanders.

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This research was carried out while the author was funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. I am indebted to Julia Anna Matz, Ron Davies, Liam Delaney, Kanika Kapur, Oliver Morrissey, Mark McGovern, Peter Neary, Karl Whelan, two anonymous referees and the editor for helpful comments and suggestions.

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Gillanders, R. Corruption and anxiety in Sub-Saharan Africa. Econ Gov 17, 47–69 (2016).

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