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The Impact of Culture on Corruption, Gross Domestic Product, and Human Development

  • Wolfgang SchollEmail author
  • Carsten C. Schermuly
Original Paper

Abstract

The evidence of culture’s impact on corruption and its consequences is still inconclusive despite several investigations: (1) Sometimes, theory is lacking and causes and consequences seem exchangeable. Based on psychological research on the distribution and use of power, we predicted that a steeper distribution of power induces more corruption and elaborated its negative consequences in a complex causal model. (2) For measuring power distribution, pervading national culture, we augmented Hofstede’s ‘Power Distance’ with three additional indicators into a reversed, more reliable and valid culture composite called “Power Balanced Freedom” (PBF). (3) Instead of the usual regression and instrument approaches, which cannot estimate multiple causal chains including causal feedback, a non-recursive path analysis was employed with data from 85 nations. PBF predicted less national Corruption (62%), with positive effects on Gross Domestic Product (GDP, 72%) and Inequality Adjusted Human Development (IHDI, 66%, including Life Expectancy, Income, and Education). The often expected reverse effect of GDP on Corruption was not significant. Contrary to influential authors from economics, culture variables are the most important predictors of corruption and its consequences. Nonetheless, our extended model supports the main thrust of their ideas and adds more precision. Our conceptual distinction of the uses of power and our empirical measure PBF reflect Kant’s ethical imperative: freedom and autonomy for everyone. Widely shared life chances as measured by IHDI reflect utilitarian, consequentialist ideas. These different ethical approaches are connected in the confirmed causal model, in line with Rawls’ first and second principle of justice.

Keywords

Corruption Cross cultural differences Economics Human development Power distribution Psychology 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Peter Graeff, Michael Johnston, Nils Köbis, Johann Graf Lambsdorff, Stefan Melnik and Evert van de Vliert for helpful commentaries and to all authors and institutions who made their multi-nations data available. We especially thank the section editor, Dr. Suhaib Riaz, and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions for improving the paper.

Funding

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interests.

Supplementary material

10551_2018_3977_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (283 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 283 KB)

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PsychologyHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.SRH HochschuleBerlinGermany

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