Study: Female Politicians Less Corrupt

Published: 16 September 2013

In a study examining 157 countries over a nine-year span researchers from Rice University in Houston, Texas have determined that female politicians in democratic governments are less likely to be corrupt.

By Kevin Briskin

Justin Esarey, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rice, aided by Gina Chirillo, program assistant for the Central and West Africa team at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington, D.C., studied female leaders from 1998 to 2007 in "'Fairer Sex’ or Purity Myth? Corruption, Gender and Institutional Context".

The study cited recent research indicating lower perceptions of corruption and lower evidence of corruption involving female politicians. This disparity seemed to stem from stronger pressure on women to conform to the status quo, according to Erasey.

The researchers stated that female politicians are consistently less corrupt than male politicians in institutions that stigmatized corruption. But the study theorized that females in government are more likely to participate in corruption in situations where it is more expected or condoned. Esarey found that female politicians were equally likely to engage in corrupt behavior as males in autocracies.

"In autocracies, bribery, favoritism and personal loyalty are often characteristic of normal government operations and are not labeled as corruption," Erasey noted. In such situations, female politicians do not have reservations about such behavior.

Women at the top spot

While not indicative of any larger trend, Transparency International's latest measure of perceived corruption in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) named Denmark, headed by a female prime minister and female monarch, as the least corrupt out of 174 nations. Only one other nation in the top 10, Switzerland, had a female head of state.