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Objective. Recent studies offer myriad explanations for why bureaucratic corruption is more pervasive in certain countries than others. However, relatively little empirical work has been done comparing competing explanations of bureaucratic corruption. In this article, I test informal, formal, and cultural control explanations against one another in an effort to understand cross-national variation in bureaucratic corruption.

Methods. Using cross-sectional and longitudinal data, this article tests the hypotheses with ordinary least squares (OLS), tobit, ordered probit, and fixed- and random-effects models.

Results. Democracy, strong judiciaries, and parliamentary democracy in particular reduce the prevalence of bureaucratic corruption.

Conclusions. This study proposes that electoral accountability and judicial efficacy produce “good” politicians, and “good” politicians monitor bureaucrats well enough to reduce bureaucratic corruption. Future research should attempt to create a direct measure of the quality of politicians variable.