Economics of Governance

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 329–369 | Cite as

Is it the gums, teeth or the bite? Effectiveness of dimensions of enforcement in curbing corruption

  • Salvatore Capasso
  • Rajeev K. Goel
  • James W. SaunorisEmail author
Original Paper


Adding a somewhat new dimension to the substantial body of research on factors driving cross-national corruption, this paper examines the effectiveness of dimensions of enforcement in reducing corruption. The main novelty lies in comparing the relative influences of latent enforcement (police, judicial, and prosecutorial employment) versus actual enforcement (conviction rates) and enforcing institutions. Results show that piecemeal enforcement efforts to combat corruption by increasing enforcement employment would not be effective, rather comprehensive improvements in institutional quality by strengthening the rule of law or regulatory quality bear greater results. These findings are robust across indices of corruption that capture somewhat different aspects. Thus, in terms of the title of the paper, when it comes to corruption control, strong gums (institutions) are more effective than showing teeth (enforcement employment) or the bite (conviction rates).


Corruption Enforcement Conviction rate Police Judges Prosecutors Institutions Regulatory quality Rule of law 

JEL Classification

K42 F5 



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salvatore Capasso
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rajeev K. Goel
    • 3
    • 4
  • James W. Saunoris
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.University of Naples ParthenopeNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean (ISMed)National Research Council of Italy (CNR)RomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA
  4. 4.Kiel Institute for the World EconomyKielGermany
  5. 5.Department of EconomicsEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA

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