"The relationship between gender and corruption appears to depend on context," lead author Justin Esarey, an assistant professor of political science at Rice University, said in a statement. "When corruption is stigmatized, as in most democracies, women will be less tolerant and less likely to engage in it compared with men. But if 'corrupt' behaviors are an ordinary part of governance supported by political institutions, there will be no corruption gender gap."
Esarey said previous research showed greater female participation in government -- in the legislature -- was associated with lower levels of perceived corruption. However, his research revealed this relationship did not exist in autocracies, where women might feel more compelled to go along with the status quo than challenge the system.
"States that have more corruption tend to be less democratic," Esarey said. "In autocracies, bribery, favoritism and personal loyalty are often characteristic of normal government operations and are not labeled as corruption."
Esarey theorized many women feel bound by their society's political norms, including when they make decisions as government officials.
"In short, recruiting women into government would be unlikely to reduce corruption across the board," Esarey said.
The study is scheduled to appear in an upcoming edition of Politics and Gender.