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Testing Alternative Theories of Bureaucratic Corruption in Less Developed Countries


  • *Direct correspondence to Nafisa Halim, Sociology Department, MSC05 3080, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001 〈〉. The data set and coding rules used in this article are available from the author on request. The author thanks Kenneth Roberts, Jose Antonio Cheibub, Robert Fiala, Bert Useem, Peter Evans, Susan Tiano, Lisa Broidy, Raymond Liedka, and the editor and anonymous SSQ reviewers for helpful comments and/or sharing data. The author acknowledges Julius Court for kindly providing data for bureaucratic structure in 20 African countries. Special appreciation goes to Andrew Schrank for his theoretical and methodological advice, which substantially improved the quality of this article, as well as for his editorial comments and guidance throughout the revisions of the article.


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.

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