With David Brown of Colorado and Michael Touchton of Boise State, this paper is now available from World Development. What we say in this paper:
Efforts to explain corruption have increased dramatically in recent years. The interest stems from the increasing weight economists assign to corruption when explaining economic growth. A great deal of the research focuses on how political institutions influence perceptions of corruption. We move this debate in a new direction by addressing a previously ignored dimension: ideological polarization. We contend perceptions of corruption are determined not only by specific institutional features of the political system—such as elements of voting systems, ballot structures, or separation of powers—but by who sits at the controls. We employ panel data from a broad variety of countries to test our theoretical argument. Contrary to recent findings by both economists and political scientists, we show that ideological polarization predicts perceptions of corruption.