Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Gender and Public Attitudes toward Corruption and Tax Evasion

Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Gender and Public Attitudes toward Corruption and Tax Evasion

Article excerpt


A large literature on compliance with the law has demonstrated strong gender differences. Women are less likely to commit almost all kinds of criminal offenses and are less likely to be involved in and approve of corruption, tax evasion, and other illicit activities. The observed gender differences at the micro level may even carry over to macro outcomes. For example. Dollar, Fisman, and Gatti (2001) and Swamy et al. (2001) show that the level of corruption in a country decreases in the percentage of women in parliament. Furthermore, the belief that greater female representation in public institutions would reduce corruption has produced specific policy actions. In 1999, Mexico set up new female uniformed patrols and increased the number of women police officers to reduce corruption (TI, Press release, March, 2000). A similar policy has been introduced in Lima, Peru (Swamy et al., 2001).

The literature offers two major theories to explain the gender differences (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990; Zager, 1994). One theory attributes gender differences to fundamental differences at the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral levels due to biological, psychological, and experiential realities. The alternative theory attributes gender differences to the different involvement of men and women in the workforce and in government. For example, according to that view women are less corrupt because they are less likely to occupy positions of power and therefore they have less opportunity to become corrupt.

Establishing whether gender differences in terms of illicit activities can be explained by the different opportunities for men and women has profound implications for policy prescriptions based on the observed gender differences. If gender differences are related primarily to opportunities, then greater representation of women in the positions of authority would not lead to reduction in illicit activities. Women would simply develop attitudes and behaviors similar to men. Unfortunately, although the literature provides ample evidence for gender differences, it does not say much about why these differences exist. Therefore, it is hard to determine whether gender promotion policies would have the desired effect on corruption and other illicit activities.

Here, we make an effort to fill this gap using data from the World Values Survey (WVS) and the European Values Survey (EVS). As in the previous literature (Swamy et al, 2001; Torgler, 2007; Torgler and Schneider, 2007), we find that women are less likely to approve of corruption and tax evasion. However, we take a step further to investigate whether the gender effect can be explained by the opportunities for women to become involved in illicit activities. We accomplish this in three ways. First, we estimate several empirical models where we introduce variables that proxy for the opportunities to become involved in illicit activities. We find that adding these variables does little to change the effect of gender. Second, we investigate the effect of gender in 1980, 1990, and 2000 separately. All the countries in our sample have experienced an increase in the involvement of women in the labor markets and government during that period. Yet, we show that the gender effects persist in direction and size over time. Third, we estimate country-specific regressions and show that the gender effect is similar across countries with quite different levels of women involvement in the labor market and politics.

Furthermore, unlike previous studies (Swamy et al, 2001), we investigate the attitudes toward corruption as well as tax evasion. We find that the gender effect for corruption is much more robust across the various specifications. In addition, we extend the empirics in Swamy et al. (2001) by adding the 2000 survey. This gives us not only a longer time period to explore but also more recent data that can be compared with earlier data. …

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