More women in government leads to less corruption, study finds

By Marina Wang

A new study has found that corruption is lower in countries that have a higher proportion of women politicians. The study, conducted across 125 countries, found the relationship to be causal and posits that corruption may be lower because of the types of policies that women affect.

“This research underscores the importance of women empowerment, their presence in leadership roles and their representation in government,” said Sudipta Sarangi, economics professor at Virginia Tech. “This is especially important in light of the fact that women remain underrepresented in politics in most countries including the United States.”

The study, published this month in the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, used a model that accounts for confounding factors such as economics and culture. Studies on gender and politics have conducted before, but this is the first study to show a causal relationship between gender and corruption.

In Canada, 27 per cent of parliamentarians are women, and Canada ranks 60th in terms of women representation in government, according to Women in national parliaments. In the United States, less than a quarter of the Senate are women, giving them a ranking of 102. Top of the list are Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia.

The study also found that a higher proportion of women in local European politics corresponded with a lower likelihood of bribery.

The authors speculate that women politicians lower the amount of corruption because they tend to focus on different kinds of policies from men. According to previous studies, women politicians tended toward more legislation that affect the welfare of women, children and families.

The study also noted that their finding doesn’t necessarily mean that women are inherently less corrupt than men—if that was the case, that would mean that fewer women in politics would lead to more corruption, which the researchers didn’t find to be true.

The study highlights the importance of women inclusion in politics, and future research will be targeted toward gaining a more mechanistic understanding of how gender affects corruption.