A Comparative Study of Inequality and Corruption

AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 2005, VOL. 70 (February: 136–157)

Posted: 6 Oct 2014

See all articles by Jong-sung You

Jong-sung You

The Australian National University

Sanjeev Khagram

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 1, 2005


This article argues that income inequality increases the level of corruption through material and normative mechanisms. The wealthy have both greater motivation and more opportunity to engage in corruption, whereas the poor are more vulnerable to extortion and less able to monitor and hold the rich and powerful accountable as inequality increases. Inequality also adversely affects social norms about corruption and people’s beliefs about the legitimacy of rules and institutions, thereby making it easier for them to tolerate corruption as acceptable behavior. This comparative analysis of 129 countries using two-stage least squares methods with a variety of instrumental variables supports the authors’ hypotheses using different measures of corruption (the World Bank’s Control of Corruption Index and the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index). The explanatory power of inequality is at least as important as conventionally accepted causes of corruption such as economic development. The authors also found a significant interaction effect between inequality and democracy, as well as evidence that inequality affects norms and perceptions about corruption using the World Values Surveys data. Because corruption also contributes to income inequality, societies often fall into vicious circles of inequality and corruption.

Keywords: inequality, corruption, cross-national study, instrumental variables

JEL Classification: H00, H10, K40

Suggested Citation

You, Jong-sung and Khagram, Sanjeev, A Comparative Study of Inequality and Corruption (February 1, 2005). AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 2005, VOL. 70 (February: 136–157). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2505598

Jong-sung You (Contact Author)

The Australian National University ( email )

+61 2 6125 7097 (Phone)

Sanjeev Khagram

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics