Should We Use Randomized Trials for Anticorruption Education and Training?

I recently attended two unrelated anticorruption conferences that both raised — in very different contexts — questions related to the appropriate design of education programs designed to inculcate ethical norms and prevent corruption.  In one conference, focused on corporate anti-bribery compliance, the issue had to do with the design of compliance training programs (and associated measures) designed to teach employees about their legal and ethical obligations, as well as the steps they should take to address any potential problems they come across in the course of their work.  At the other conference, focused more broadly on university education in the developing world, participants spent a considerable amount of time discussing (and sometimes advocating) the integration of anticorruption components into university courses — including courses not specifically on corruption — in order to produce a generation of students who would be more likely to resist corrupt norms and promote more ethical conduct.

Notably, although there seemed to be wide consensus in both discussions that education is important, there was much less of a clear sense of what sorts of education or training programs are most likely to be effective, and how much of an impact one can expect such programs to have. That’s understandable, of course: In this context, as in many others, the messiness of reality makes it very difficult to figure out what works, and to isolate the impact of any one intervention. But perhaps some forms of anticorruption education (in both the corporate training and academic contexts) may be suitable for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Let me use this post to make a tentative case for expanded use of RCTs in this context. Continue reading