Working Paper
Corruption and Inequality

Economic inequality provides a fertile breeding ground for corruption and, in turn, leads to further inequalities. Most corruption models focus on the institutional determinants of government dishonesty. However, such accounts are problematic. Corruption is remarkably sticky over time. There is a very powerful correlation between cross-national measures corruption in 1980 and in 2004. In contrast, measures of democracy such as the Freedom House scores are not so strongly correlated over time, and changes in corruption are unrelated to changes in institutional design. On the other hand, inequality and trust-like corruption are also sticky over time. The connection between inequality and the quality of government is not necessarily so simple. The aggregate relationships between inequality and corruption are not strong. The path from inequality to corruption may be indirect, through generalized trust, but the connection is key to understanding why some societies are more corrupt than others. This study estimates a simultaneous equation model of trust, corruption, perceptions of inequality, confidence in government, and demands for redistribution in Romania, and shows that perceptions of rising inequality and corruption lead to lower levels of trust and demands for redistribution.