2013 December 21 Saturday
Women As Corrupt As Men In Corrupt Societies

Women are less corrupt only in low corruption societies.

Women are more likely than men to disapprove of -- and less likely to participate in -- political corruption, but only in countries where corruption is stigmatized, according to new political science research from Rice University.

"'Fairer Sex' or Purity Myth? Corruption, Gender and Institutional Context" finds that women are less tolerant of corrupt behavior, but only in democratic governments, where appropriating public policy for private gain is typically punished by voters and courts.

"The relationship between gender and corruption appears to depend on context," said Justin Esarey, an assistant professor of political science at Rice 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."

What do you make of this result?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 December 21 08:38 PM 

ivvenalis said at December 22, 2013 6:10 PM:

Some possibilities:

> "Corruption" generally involves kin-favoring, which women are as well inclined towards as men.

> Women are more sensitive to social disapproval. Likewise, acting against social mores is a risk-taking activity, which males favor.

> Special case of nepotism: in some corrupt societies, women might hold power only as figureheads of their male guardians for various cynical reasons. As a man is the real potentate, the woman's individual inclinations don't matter. Men are more corrupt then women, and corrupt societies only give women the appearance of power.

> Democracies (how well did the study disaggregate "democracy" and "lack of corruption"?) tend to select corrupt men and un-corrupt women. Corrupt systems select or produce corrupt people (or at random, and there's no mean difference between men and women in tendency towards corruption).

> The study's definition of corruption is systematically biased. Diverting more money to the Nowherestani Women's Liberation Collective isn't corruption, it's Justice!

Could be some combination. Narratives:

In Corruptionstan, a wise ruler always makes sure his family is taken care of first, since you never know when the shoe will be on the other foot and blood is thicker than water. Corruptionstan is Muslim, so women are generally subordinate to men socially and politically, but Al-President can get the American consul-general to shut the hell up and look the other way when he expels Rich White People for Democracy on espionage suspicions if his nephew's wife gets a Parliament seat or his sister is the Secretary of Education or whatever. The nephew's wife is a good Muslim woman and so will submit to her husband, to the approval of everyone she knows.

In Eutopia, three politicians jockey for power: Alpha Al, Beta Bob, and Female Fannie. Al didn't get to where he was by playing it safe, and anyway he knows the value of rewarding friends. Besides, what's the point of being a big shot if you can't flaunt it a bit? The voters will forgive a man some indiscretion if he's got charisma. After he retires he becomes an outspoken lobbyist for some defense conglomerate. Bob's the kind of square who probably never punched a guy out behind a bar, thinks domestic beer is too rough for his dainty palate anyway, and definitely wouldn't give the Median Female Voter a sample of his Apex Alpha seed even if his wife would never know he was at that remote mountain getaway. After he retires he devotes his time to his family and his fishing hobby. Fannie might not have a biological family (or she does, but $100,000 is more than enough to take care of her two children), but she's always known (because she's been told by authority figures all her life) that women have a natural talent for helping others and reining in out of control patriarchal swine like Al. Who is, admittedly, kind of charming. After she retires she becomes an outspoken activist for various women's foundations.

Some avenues of investigation these bring up: Does religion/culture matter? Is corruption always familial? If it isn't, is there any change in the gender dynamics when it's not? Are the women in positions of power different in number or kind in Corruptionstan than Eutopia?
What does the average male power figure look like in both contexts? What does the average female look like? Which way does causality run if they're different? Are voters more or less likely to forgive male or female politicians for scandal? Does the gender difference subside in more mature democracies that have a long history of powerful women, making it less appealing for a woman to automatically assume the role of a reform figure?

Also, how do they define "corruption"? How about the Obama Test for corruption indices: if a politician's wife being appointed to a bullshit diversity commissar position for 10x average yearly income for the duration of his term isn't captured in your definition, you're wrong.

Lurker said at December 24, 2013 2:23 PM:

As Garrett Hardin might have noted in The Tragedy of the Commons, in a society where everybody is corrupt, the non-corrupt person is at a disadvantage. So corruption is the only smart path to choose.

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