Self-Selection into Corrupt Judiciaries (WP-19-15)


Jordan Gans-Morse

Drawing on experimental games and a survey conducted with university students at
an elite legal academy in Ukraine, this study compares the attitudinal, behavioral, and
demographic traits of students aspiring to public sector legal careers as judges, prosecutors,
and investigators with their counterparts aiming to pursue private sector legal
careers as defense attorneys and commercial lawyers. The author finds evidence that students
pursuing public sector legal careers display more willingness to cheat or bribe in experimental
games as well as lower levels of altruism. These findings indicate that corruption
in some societies may persist in part from the self-selection into government institutions
of citizens with a higher propensity to seek profit from illicit activities. Moreover, the
findings suggest that such corrupt self-selection can infect a country’s judicial and law
enforcement apparatus, with potentially dire implications for the rule of law.

Jordan Gans-Morse, Associate Professor of Political Science and IPR Associate, Northwestern University


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