A new study shows that women are less likely than men to participate in political corruption, but only in countries where corruption is stigmatized.
Researchers from Rice University in Houston found that women are less tolerant of corrupt behavior, but only in democratic governments, where political corruption is typically punished — either by the courts or by voters.
“The relationship between gender and corruption appears to depend on context,” said Justin Esarey, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science 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.”
While previous research has shown that having more women in government is associated with lower levels of perceived corruption, Esarey reports his research reveals this is not true in autocracies. Women in these countries might might feel more compelled to go along with the status quo than challenge the system, he noted.
“States that have more corruption tend to be less democratic,” Esarey said. “In autocracies, bribery, favoritism and personal loyalty are often characteristic of normal government operations and are not labeled as corruption.”
Recruiting more women into government “would be unlikely to reduce corruption across the board,” Esarey added.
The study was completed in two parts. The first 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. 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 collected between 1992 and 2002 for the World Values Survey (WVS).
Esarey added he hopes his research will encourage others to study the effect of gender discrimination on corruption around the world.
The study was published in Politics and Gender.
Source: Rice University