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Informal Economies and Societal Stability in China and Russia

PI: Marina Zaloznaya, University of Iowa


Informal Economies and Societal Stability in China and Russia

Principal Investigator: Marina Zaloznaya, University of Iowa

Co-Investigators: William M. Reisinger, University of Iowa; Wenfang Tang, University of Iowa

Year of Award: 2018 - 2021

Managing Service Agency: Army Research Office

Project Description:
Bureaucratic corruption is one of the most prevalent crimes in the non-Western world. Yet, scholarly knowledge about its causes and consequences remains limited. Importantly, there is no consensus on whether public sector corruption (or informal economic activity in bureaucracies) increases the longevity of non-democratic political regimes and their economies, or erodes them from the inside. Some researchers argue that, by helping ordinary citizens achieve everyday consumption goals, bureaucratic corruption makes life in unfree political and flailing economic systems more tolerable, raising citizens’ support for incumbent regimes. Others suggest that involvement in such activity worsens the economic situation of ordinary citizens and sours their feelings towards political leadership, making anti-government political behavior more likely. Our study aims to adjudicate these important debates using nuanced large-N survey data on informal economic activity in Russia and China. In collaboration with Russian and Chinese survey firms, we carried out face-to-fact representative national surveys in China (N=2,500) and Russia(N=2,350). The questionnaire, developed in collaboration with local country experts, included modules on citizens’ informal economic activity, social networks, political attitudes and behaviors, and cultural beliefs, among others. Our analyses rely on advanced statistical techniques to embed bureaucratic corruption in social networks, analyze causal pathways to this crime, and evaluate its impact on political and economic stability.

Associated Publications:
Zaloznaya, M. and F.B. Lynn. Forthcoming in 2020. “What We Lose When We Fight Bureaucratic Corruption… and Is It Worth It? New Insights from Russia”.
Zaloznaya, M., J. Glanville, and W.M. Reisinger. Under Review. “The Limits of Public Tolerance in Autocracies: Bureaucratic Corruption and Political Trust in China and Russia”.
Zaloznaya, M. and F. B. Lynn. Under Review. “Corruption as Freedom:  Public Sector Bribery, Citizen Networks, and Rudimentary Civil Society under Autocracy”.
Reisinger, W. and M. Zaloznaya. Book manuscript in preparation. Bureaucratic Corruption in Non-Free States: The cases of Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and China.
Zaloznaya, M. and F. B. Lynn. Working paper. "The Advantage Theory of Bureaucratic Corruption,".

Owl in the Olive Tree post:
Casualties of Good Governance: How Corruption Helps Ordinary Citizens in Autocracies