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Corruption and Reform: An Introduction

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

The United States today, according to most studies, is among the least corrupt nations in the world. But America's past was checkered with political scandal and widespread corruption that would not seem unusual compared with the most corrupt developing nation today. We construct a "corruption and fraud index" using word counts from a large number of newspapers for 1815 to 1975, supplemented with other historical facts. The index reveals that America experienced a substantial decrease in corruption from 1870 to 1920, particularly from the late-1870s to the mid-1880s and again in the 1910s. At its peak in the 1870s the "corruption and fraud index" is about five times its level from the end of the Progressive Era to the 1970s. If the United States was once considerably more corrupt than it is today, then America's history should offer lessons about how to reduce corruption. How did America become a less corrupt polity, economy, and society? We review the findings and insights from a series of essays for a conference volume, Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's History, for which this paper is the introduction that attempt to understand the remarkable evolution of corruption and reform in U.S. history.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10775.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Publication status: published as Glaeser, Edward L. and Claudia Goldin (eds.) Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America’s Economic History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10775

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  1. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
  2. McMillan, John & Zoido, Pablo, 2004. "How to Subvert Democracy: Montesinos in Peru," Research Papers, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business 1851r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "The Rise of the Regulatory State," NBER Working Papers 8650, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alejandro Gaviria, 2002. "Assessing the Effects of Corruption and Crime on Firm Performance: Evidence from Latin America," INVESTIGACIÓN ECONÓMICA EN COLOMBIA 001902, FUNDACIÓN PONDO.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Public Ownership in the American City," NBER Working Papers 8613, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. George J. Stigler, 1971. "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, The RAND Corporation, vol. 2(1), pages 3-21, Spring.
  7. Rose-Ackerman, Susan, 1975. "The economics of corruption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 187-203, February.
  8. Di Tella, Rafael & Schargrodsky, Ernesto, 2003. "The Role of Wages and Auditing during a Crackdown on Corruption in the City of Buenos Aires," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(1), pages 269-92, April.
  9. Mauro, Paolo, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712, August.
  10. Alejandro Gaviria Uribe, 2000. "Assessing the effects of corruption and crime on firm performance," INFORMES DE INVESTIGACIÓN 002031, FEDESARROLLO.
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Cited by:
  1. Raaj Sah, 2006. "Corruption Across Countries and Regions: Some Consequences of Local Osmosis," Working Papers, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago 0609, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  2. James E. Alt & David Dreyer Lassen, 2005. "Political and Judicial Checks on Corruption: Evidence from American State Governments," EPRU Working Paper Series, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics 05-12, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko & Raven E. Saks, 2005. "Why Have Housing Prices Gone Up?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research 2061, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Glaeser, Edward L. & Saks, Raven E., 2006. "Corruption in America," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1053-1072, August.
  5. L. Cameron & A. Chaudhuri & N. Erkal & L. Gangadharan, 2005. "Do Attitudes Towards Corruption Differ Across Cultures? Experimental Evidence from Australia, India, Indonesia andSingapore," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series, The University of Melbourne 943, The University of Melbourne.
  6. Adriana Cordis, 2009. "Judicial checks on corruption in the United States," Economics of Governance, Springer, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 375-401, November.
  7. Pablo Querubin & James M. Snyder, Jr., 2011. "The Control of Politicians in Normal Times and Times of Crisis: Wealth Accumulation by U.S. Congressmen, 1850-1880," NBER Working Papers 17634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Thum, Marcel, 2004. "Korruption," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 11/04, Dresden University of Technology, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
  9. Edward L. Glaeser & Raven Saks, 2004. "Corruption in America," NBER Working Papers 10821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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