Corruption data and measures

Corruption is the use of public office for private gain and, unfortunately, it is quite common around the world. Also, it is difficult to measure. Paying bribes is (in most cases) illegal and hidden.

Yet, there are efforts to measure corruption. Surveys ask people and businesses if they have been asked to pay bribes when dealing with the public administration. Companies such as the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Political Risk Services Group compile their own reports. Even some governments give assessment of the level of corruption in other countries. For example, the French government tracks over 100 countries. There are literally hundreds of such reports, indexes, scores, etc.

Two indexes, one from the World Bank and another from Transparency International, a non-governmental organization headquartered in Berlin, Germany, combine these different sources of information into one overall measure of corruption. They take the various measures of corruption from different sources, adjust the data to make them comparable, and aggregate the information into one overall index that is comparable across countries.

The index from Transparency International is based on multiple surveys from each country. The results of the different surveys are aggregated into one common "corruption perceptions score" ranging from 0 (totally corrupt) to 100 (no corruption). Here is a global ranking of countries from 2012 using that index:

Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index

The Transparency International index is not comparable over time until 2012. At that time, the methodology was changed and 2012 became a benchmark year.

The corruption index from the World Bank is part of the World Governance Indicators data set that includes measures of rule of law, government accountability, and other aspects of governance. It is the result of work by Daniel Kaufmann, Aart Kraay, and Massimo Mastruzzi and is the most commonly used data set for government effectiveness. The "control of corruption" index ranges from -2.5 (totally corrupt) to 2.5 (no corruption):

Corruption Index from the World Bank

Notice that the Transparency International and the World Bank corruption rankings are similar but they are not the same. That is understandable: corruption is by definition hidden and the measures are imperfect.

Unlike the Transparency International Index, the World Bank index is constructed so one can track corruption over time. And, indeed, we see that the control of corruption does change over time:

Corruption on the rise in the UK
Up and down in the US

Let us know if you have any questions about these data. You can also visit the Transparency International website or the World Governance Indicators website for more information about the construction of the indexes and the data.
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