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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research

Corruption and preferences for decentralisation

8 March 2016

Speaker: Doctor Sergi Pardos, Fellow in Politics, Merton College, University of Oxford

Existing studies on individual preferences for decentralization focus on collective identity, economic considerations, and party politics as explanations of support for decentralization. This paper aims at contributing to this literature by showing that preferences for fiscal and political decentralization are also driven by concern about the quality of government in the face of corruption.

Using a principal-agent framework of analysis, we find that exposure to an exogenous corruption prime decreases trust in potentially corrupt national politicians, and therefore influences preferences on the territorial organization of the state and its tax system. We test our argument using a vignette design in a survey experiment in Spain and study the causal mechanism using mediation analysis. We validate our finding externally by analyzing the relationship between corruption perception and support for decentralization using data from 29 countries in the European Values Study. Our findings have important implications for research on demands for decentralization.

Co-author: Theresa Kuhn, from the University of Amsterdam