Unbundling Corruption: Why it matters and how to do it

By Yuen Yuen Ang, Political Scientist at the University of Michigan, and the author of How China Escaped the Poverty Trap and China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Growth and Vast Corruption

Corruption-whistleblower-shutterstock_1581042757Even amid a global pandemic, corruption persists and manifests itself in multiple forms, ranging from corrupt police extorting truck drivers delivering essential goods, rigged procurement contracts, to politically connected corporations receiving huge bailouts from the government while small businesses are starved of loans they desperately need to stay afloat. Although all of these actions are corrupt, they involve very different actors and stakes; some are transactional while others are extractive; and each brings about vastly different consequences.

Yet the conventional way of measuring corruption across countries does not capture qualitative distinctions across types of corruption. Instead, standard indices—most notably, the Corruption Perception Index (CPI)—measure corruption as a one-dimensional problem, ranging from 0 to 100. Consistently, rich countries rank at the top while poor countries are stuck at the bottom. Continue reading