Friday, July 07, 2006


Rocket science, an update

OK, I got a free copy of the paper from Professor Fisman's web page, and, given that today was a Think Friday at work I decided to use some of the time to read it. Of course, that meant I wound up working on other stuff on into the evening, but few are the days when I don't do that anyway, so....

Indeed, the AP item gave an entirely skewed idea of what the study was all about. The study wasn't trying to find out why the tickets weren't being paid, but was specifically looking at whether the non-payment of tickets could predict the level of government corruption in the subject country. Rather than finding an obvious reason for failure to pay, the researchers actually went in the other direction, collected and analyzed the data to validate — successfully — their hypothesis that looking at the parking-ticket statistics can tell them information about the country the diplomat is from. They found that this held even after they controlled for a number of variables.

More broadly, they're using this as one indication that corruption follows cultural norms, and remains even when people are displaced into another culture. Yes, the paper's definitely more interesting than the Associated Press made it out to be.

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