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Public Sector Corruption and Gender

Corruption undermines economic development and damages social stability. Concern about corruption has intensified in recent years, and is accompanied by the effort to understand corruption. Possible connections between gender and corruption have not been adequately investigated. A commonly held belief is that increasing women's representation might reduce corruption in an organization and its environment. Could the proportion of women employees in a public organization be connected with the level of corruption in that organization? If women are under-represented in public organizations' employment, and if raising the percentage of women is associated with reduced levels of corruption, then actively promoting women's employment could be part of the World Bank's strategy to improve governance.

In a detailed review of the available empirical research on corruption, Lambsdorff (1999) lists only two studies under the category of corruption and gender. In the first study, “Are Women really the “Fairer” Sex? Corruption and Women in Government” in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization (46: 423-429,) Dollar, Fisman, and Gatti (2001), found, in a large cross-section of countries, the greater the representation of women in parliament, the lower the level of corruption. In the second study, “Gender and Corruption,” Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 64, 2001, 25-55, Swamy, Knack, Lee and Azfar (2001) used several independent data sets to show that corruption is less severe where women comprise a larger share of labor force, and where women hold a larger share of parliamentary seats. These two studies provide preliminary evidence that increasing women’s representation might reduce corruption in an organization and its environment.

The paper by Gokcekus and Mukherjee (Draft - June 2002) examines whether this is applicable in public sector organizations. Is corruption in public sector organizations connected with the percentage of women employed in them? This investigation utilizes survey data from World Bank funded surveys of nearly 4,000 public officials in 6 countries. It checks if there is a statistically significant connection between the percentage of women in public sector organizations on the one hand, and (i) severity of corruption, and (ii) its probability of being reported -- on the other. Results of the present investigation show that when public organizations have too few women (less than one-third), increasing the proportion of females reduces the severity of corruption. However, continuously increasing the proportion of females is counter-productive. After a certain threshold, further increasing the proportion of women increases corruption and reduces the chances of its being reported.

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