"When corruption is stigmatized, as in most democracies, women will be less tolerant and less likely to engage in it compared with men. But if 'corrupt' behaviors are an ordinary part of governance supported by political institutions, there will be no corruption gender gap," says Justin Esarey. (Credit: Robert Scoble/Flickr)

Women are less corrupt, but only where it’s stigmatized

Women are less tolerant of corrupt behavior—and less likely to participate in it—but only in cultures that condemn the crooked acts.

“The relationship between gender and corruption appears to depend on context,” says Justin Esarey, an assistant professor of political science at Rice University and the study’s lead author. “When corruption is stigmatized, as in most democracies, women will be less tolerant and less likely to engage in it compared with men. But if ‘corrupt’ behaviors are an ordinary part of governance supported by political institutions, there will be no corruption gender gap.”

Esarey noted that previous research has shown that greater female participation in government (that is, in the legislature) is associated with lower levels of perceived corruption. However, he says that his research reveals that this relationship does not exist in autocracies, where women might feel more compelled to go along with the status quo than challenge the system.

“States that have more corruption tend to be less democratic,” Esarey says. “In autocracies, bribery, favoritism, and personal loyalty are often characteristic of normal government operations and are not labeled as corruption.”

Esarey theorized that many women feel bound by their society’s political norms, including when they make decisions as government officials. “In short, recruiting women into government would be unlikely to reduce corruption across the board,” Esarey says.

The study, which will be published in Politics and Gender and can currently be read online, was completed in two parts. The first part of the study evaluated corruption at the national level, using data from three organizations that monitor and measure corruption: Transparency International, the World Bank Governance Indicators, and the International Crisis Risk Group. The data was collected on 157 countries between 1998 and 2007. The second part of the study evaluated attitudes toward corruption on an individual level in 68 countries, using data from the World Values Survey (WVS). WVS surveys how much people tolerate corruption on an individual level. The data was collected between 1999 and 2002.

Esarey hopes the research will encourage other scholars to study more closely the effect of gender discrimination on corruption around the world.

Source: Rice University