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The Context for Political Corruption: A Cross-National Analysis


  • *Direct correspondence to Thomas K. Rudel, Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers University, 55 Dudley Rd., New Brunswick, NJ 08901 〈〉. We would be glad to share our data set with other researchers who might want to replicate our work or extend it in a different direction. The authors thank Ann Mische and Steve Hansell for critical readings of earlier drafts of this paper.


Objective. How do we explain variations across nations in the incidence of political corruption? Recent theoretical work locates the causes for corruption in a combination of institutional conditions: monopoly power, little accountability, and wide discretion. This focus on the form of political institutions clarifies the micro-scale causes of political corruption, but it leaves unanswered questions about the macro-scale causes of corruption.

Methods. This article addresses these questions about the macro scale through an analysis of perceived levels of corruption across nations.

Results. Our work identifies poverty, large populations, and small public sectors as contextual causes of corruption. Historically-based differences in political cultures across broad geographical regions also affect the perceived incidence of corruption in nations.

Conclusion. Further research should attempt to link micro- and macro-scale causes together in a single, multi-scalar model of corruption.