Why studying economics makes you more corrupt

11 Oct, 2015 at 16:33 | Posted in Economics | 3 Comments

There seems to be growing evidence that markets corrupt morals. For example, Falk and Szech (2013) showed that individuals behaved less morally in market frameworks than in non-market frameworks. It seems that people behave less morally if there is potential for greed to pay off … But markets and money are central topics in economics teaching. A study which focused on the education of individuals was provided by Frank and Schulze (2000) … COo9yoSUcAEeACLThey found out that economics students had a higher tendency to be corrupt than students of other disciplines, as the economics students in their artificial setting were more prone to bribery. All these findings correspond with a substantial body of research in the economic literature, which, with the help of surveys, laboratory experiments, as well as field experiments showed that those who learn about markets (economists) or act in markets (businessmen) are lacking in … ‘pro-social behavior’ … I also use corruption as a proxy to show whether there are any differences in pro-social behavior between economists and non-economists, but unlike them, I observe behavior outside the artificial situation of a laboratory. By analyzing real world data of the U.S. Congress, I found that politicians holding a degree in economics are significantly more prone to engage in corrupt practices.

René Ruske

Reading Ruske’s paper it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that one of the most prominent members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences — Bo Rothstein — today in the leading Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter calls for an immediate moratorium on the awarding of “The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” Yours truly can’t but concur.


  1. How do you correct for the self selection problem? In other words, how do you know that studying economics attract people who are prone to bribery in the first place?

  2. agree no more!!

  3. Interesting, so the academy is blaming the recipients of the price for promoting corruption and not the academy’s decision to grant the price to people whose work has promoted corruption? I find it hard to believe that The Royal Academy is lacking candidates whose research in economics is focused in the betterment of society in order to award the Nobel price. It seems unfair to throw everyone in the same bag and ban the issuance of the award based on their inability to value work that is not focused on the grounds of neo liberal values.

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