Combatting government corruption could be as simple as casting a vote in favor of female political candidates. A new study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization suggests countries with more women politicians have less corruption at both the local and national levels.
Researchers compared international corruption levels with global labor statistics in more than 125 countries. Women politicians likely have a significant impact on the level of corruption not because they are inherently less corrupt, but rather because they tend to align with policies relating to health, education, and the welfare of women, children, and families. In fact, if women are indeed less corrupt than men, then the authors say there should be a bigger correlation between female participation and lack of corruption in all professions across the board. Rather, the results suggest that political roles attract less corrupt women than men.
"This research underscores the importance of women empowerment, their presence in leadership roles and their representation in government,” said study author Sudipta Sarangi in a statement. "This is especially important in light of the fact that women remain underrepresented in politics in most countries including the United States."
Women in countries with greater levels of equality tend to have the strongest impacts against corruption. In the United States, for example, less than a quarter of US Senators are women, while only 19 percent of members of the US House are women. Perhaps most notably, the nation has never had a woman president. By contrast, more than one-third of members in the European Parliament are women, but it’s the member states with the most representation of women that might surprise you. Topping the list are Rwanda, Bolivia, Cuba, Iceland, and Nicaragua.
The study authors say it’s possible that corruption drives women’s participation in politics, and not the other way around. The researchers also looked at women in the labor force and clerical positions, as well as decision-making and managerial roles. Women in these occupations are not significantly correlated with corruption one way or another.
Promoting gender equality as a whole, which includes supporting women in politics, may lead to a significant reduction in the amount of corruption seen at the government level, according to researchers. Because women tend to gravitate to issues concerning health and education, the study authors continue that promoting women in politics could have better education and health outcomes.