New study finds that students who cheat prefer to work in government over private sector

What’s in your government? reports on a new study that explains what kind of people prefer to work in a government monopoly.


College students who cheated on a simple task were more likely to want government jobs, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania found in a study of hundreds of students in Bangalore, India.

Their results, recently released as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggest that one of the contributing forces behind  could be who gets into government work in the first place.

[…]Researchers ran a series of experiments with more than 600 students finishing up college in India. In one task, students had to privately roll a die and report what number they got. The higher the number, the more they would get paid. Each student rolled the die 42 times.

Although researchers do not know for sure if any one student lied, they could tell whether the numbers each person reported were wildly different from what would turn up randomly – in other words, whether there were a suspiciously high number of 5s and 6s in their results.

Cheating seemed to be rampant: More than a third of students had scores that fell in the top 1 percent of the predicted distribution, researchers found. Students who apparently cheated were 6.3 percent more likely to say they wanted to work in government, the researchers found.

“Overall, we find that dishonest individuals – as measured by the dice task – prefer to enter government service,” wrote Hanna and co-author Shing-yi Wang, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

They added, “Importantly, we show that cheating on this task is also predictive of fraudulent behaviors by real government officials.”

The same test, given to a smaller set of government nurses, showed that those who appear to have cheated with the dice were also more likely to skip work. Previous studies suggest that the bulk of such absenteeism is fraudulent, Hanna said.

Aside from the armed forces, most people who go into government go there because they want to have a secure job that they cannot be fired from no matter how poorly they perform. They want to be insulated from market forces and free trade. They don’t want to have to do a good job and please customers in order to get paid. Naturally, people who cheat on tests and lack qualifications are attracted to unionized industries like government for these reasons.

One thought on “New study finds that students who cheat prefer to work in government over private sector”

  1. Interesting study…I’m thinking of some people I know who entered non-military, non-law enforcement occupation that match this description though I’m not saying all are like this who work a Gov’t job.


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