The Causes of State Level Corruption in the United States

Reviewed by Franco Maddalena

April 13, 2015

“The Causes of State Level Corruption in the United States,” by Mark M. Strabo from Princeton University, begins by establishing that the United States is not immune to corruption, which has been historically associated with negatively impacting the proper functioning of democratic government, and is associated with massive economic costs. Strabo then goes on to investigate the factors behind corruption in the United States; more specifically: what causes corruption at the state level? In order to find an answer to this question, Strabo studies conviction data from all charges associated with corruption, and he does this by analyzing convictions at the federal, state, and local level. Ultimately, via a multivariate regression analysis Strabo finds a statistically significant correlation between higher levels of corruption and lower levels of education. Throughout his paper, the author also explains his work determining whether income inequality and state governments’ share of state GDP are in any way related to state corruption levels. However, Strabo does not find a statistically significant correlation between corruption and these two latter variables.

Throughout his paper, Strabo thoroughly depicts the varying levels of corruption within the United States, and examines factors that may be highly correlated with corruption. He also emphasizes the negative consequences associated with corruption, raising the significance of his research area. Given his findings, Strabo believes that by focusing on improving state education levels, corruption levels can be decreased, and thus the negative corruption “spiral” that would result from increasing levels of corruption that simultaneously decrease education opportunities (and which in exchange result in more corruption) can be avoided. Strabo argues that an increased level of education among the populace increases both the likelihood that a corrupt official would be caught, in addition to the pertinent punishments that such official would experience if caught. In short, Strabo’s paper was highly informative, and his analysis is nothing but thorough. Overall, a very enjoyable piece that I recommend to all.

See the full paper here!

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