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The relationship between remittances and corruption is contested. For some authors, external income endows individuals with financial buffers, which undermine these individuals’ incentive to hold governments to account and allow rent-seeking politicians to invest fewer resources in public goods. For others, remittance payments undermine clientelist networks and increase individual-level political engagement and accountability. For others still, remittances diffuse social norms, since senders are likely to live in large cities or wealthier countries where corruption is less tolerated. However, despite being rooted in individual-level assumptions, many of the conflicting results in the extant literature have an empirical focus at the aggregate level. In this paper we offer a corrective, explaining variation in individual-level perceptions of corruption among remittance recipients through a new mechanism. With survey data from 34 African countries, we show that recipients are endowed with greater cash income, which is used to bribe officials in the hope of securing preferential access to basic services. This act of paying bribes, coupled with the fact that access does not appear to improve, fuels perceptions that the government is corrupt.

Alex Yeandle

Alex Yeandle is a researcher

David Doyle

David Doyle is a researcher.