Big Research News: Women in Government Root Out Corruption

The Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization published new research in July of 2018 which furthers the argument that women have a significant impact on the quality of political leadership.

We’ve made the point here before, but we’ll make it again: the research is looking quite promising for supporting the idea that women make better political leaders.  Some new findings recently published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization could become a big deal in today’s gendered political world, and could have huge implications for the future of civil society.

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The research discovers that when women are more plentiful in the government body, that body tends to be less susceptible to corruption. Women donors would do well to invest in funding more social science research on this finding. With evidence that women are less likely to take bribes and more likely to support efforts for fair competition for contracts, this is big news for movements for gender equality in governments worldwide. More on this from Science Daily: 

Study Finds Less Corruption in Countries Where More Women Are in Government

14 June 2018 – A greater representation of women in the government is bad news for corruption, according to a new study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization by researchers Chandan Jha of Le Moyne College and Sudipta Sarangi of Virginia Tech.

In a cross-country analysis of over 125 countries, this study finds that corruption is lower in countries where a greater share of parliamentarians are women. The study further finds that women’s representation in local politics is important, too – the likelihood of having to bribe is lower in regions with a greater representation of women in local-level politics in Europe.

“This research underscores the importance of women empowerment, their presence in leadership roles and their representation in government,” said Sarangi, an economics professor and department head 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.”

Less than a quarter of the members of the U.S. Senate are women and only 19 percent of the women in the U.S. House of Representatives are women. It is also noteworthy that the United Stated never had a women head or president.

The authors speculate that women policymakers are able to have an impact on corruption because they choose different policies from men. An extensive body of prior research shows that women politicians choose policies that are more closely related to the welfare of women, children, and family.

[…]The authors maintain that while the gender-corruption relationship has been studied before, the previous studies suffered from the critique that the relationship between women’s representation in government and corruption was not shown to be causal.

Jha and Sarangi’s research is the most comprehensive study on this topic and looks at the implications of the presence of women in other occupations as well including the shares of women in the labor force, clerical positions, and decision making positions such as the CEOs and other managerial positions. The study finds that women’s presence in these occupations is not significantly associated with corruption, suggesting that it is the policymaking role through which women are able to have an impact on corruption.

 […] The policy implications of the study point towards the need for promoting gender equality in general and promoting the presence of women in politics in particular. Previous research has established that a greater presence of women in government is associated with better education and health outcomes. 

If I were able to give out funding, I would want to follow up on this research and make a very big deal out of it.

Related:

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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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