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The Historical Roots of Corruption: State Building, Economic Inequality, and Mass Education

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We show a link between levels of mass education in 1870 and corruption levels in 2010 for seventy-eight countries that remains strong when controlling for change in the level of education, GDP/ capita, and democracy. A model for the causal mechanism between universal education and control of corruption is presented. Early introduction of universal education is linked to levels of economic equality and to efforts to increase state capacity. First, societies with more equal education gave citizens more opportunities and power for opposing corruption. Secondly, the need for increased state capacity was a strong motivation for the introduction of universal education in many countries. Strong states provided more education to their publics and such states were more common where economic disparities were initially smaller.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2016

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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