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Corruption and Reform: Introduction

In: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History

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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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Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser & Claudia Goldin, 2006. "Corruption and Reform: Introduction," NBER Chapters, in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 2-22, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:9976
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    1. Culturomics: una aplicación al caso colombiano
      by Alejandro Gaviria in Foco Económico on 2011-10-18 17:00:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Dincer, Oguzhan & Teoman, Ozgur, 2019. "Does corruption kill? Evidence from half a century infant mortality data," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 232(C), pages 332-339.
    2. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan & Diana Belo Moreira, 2009. "Corrupting Learning: Evidence from Missing Federal Education Funds in Brazil," Textos para discussão 562, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
    3. Thum, Marcel, 2004. "Korruption," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 11/04, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
    4. Qu, Guangjun & Sylwester, Kevin & Wang, Feng, 2016. "Anticorruption and Growth: Evidence from China," MPRA Paper 72190, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Querubin, Pablo & Snyder, James M., 2013. "The Control of Politicians in Normal Times and Times of Crisis: Wealth Accumulation by U.S. Congressmen, 1850–1880," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 8(4), pages 409-450, October.
    6. Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce Millett Steinberg, 2016. "Transforming Cities: Does Urbanization Promote Democratic Change?," NBER Working Papers 22860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Qu, Guangjun & Sylwester, Kevin & Wang, Feng, 2018. "Anticorruption and growth: Evidence from China," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 373-390.
    8. Edward L. Glaeser & Raven Saks, 2004. "Corruption in America," NBER Working Papers 10821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Sah, Raaj, 2007. "Corruption across countries and regions: Some consequences of local osmosis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 2573-2598, August.
    10. Adriana Cordis, 2009. "Judicial checks on corruption in the United States," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 375-401, November.
    11. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko & Raven E. Saks, 2005. "Why Have Housing Prices Gone Up?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 329-333, May.
    12. Fogel, Kathy & Morck, Randall & Yeung, Bernard, 2008. "Big business stability and economic growth: Is what's good for General Motors good for America?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 83-108, July.
    13. James E. Alt & David D. Lassen, 2008. "Political And Judicial Checks On Corruption: Evidence From American State Governments," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(1), pages 33-61, March.
    14. 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 943, The University of Melbourne.
    15. Ferraz, Claudio & Finan, Frederico S., 2007. "Electoral Accountability and Corruption in Local Governments: Evidence from Audit Reports," IZA Discussion Papers 2843, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    16. Albert Solé-Ollé & Pilar Sorribas-Navarro, 2014. "Does Corruption Erode Trust in Government? Evidence from a Recent Surge of Local Scandals in Spain," CESifo Working Paper Series 4888, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Qerimi, Qerim & Sergi, Bruno, 2009. "The global financial crisis and the post-Lisbon prospects of enlargement," SEER Journal for Labour and Social Affairs in Eastern Europe, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, vol. 12(4), pages 439-460.
    18. Nabamita Dutta & Russell Sobel, 2016. "Does corruption ever help entrepreneurship?," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 179-199, June.
    19. Glaeser, Edward L. & Saks, Raven E., 2006. "Corruption in America," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1053-1072, August.
    20. Jeffrey Milyo & Adriana Cordis, 2013. "Measuring Public Corruption in the United States: Evidence from Administrative Records of Federal Prosecutions," Working Papers 1322, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    21. Ramirez, Carlos D., 2014. "Is corruption in China “out of control”? A comparison with the US in historical perspective," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 76-91.
    22. James E. Alt & David Dreyer Lassen, 2008. "Inequality and Corruption: Evidence from US States," EPRU Working Paper Series 08-02, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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