New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

Study: Corruption Soars When Politicians Are Placed Above the Law

April 11, 2013

In a new study, Stern School of Business assistant professor of economics Vasiliki Skreta and co-authors, Karthik Reddy of Harvard Law School and Moritz Schularick of the University of Bonn, examine statutory immunity provisions that obstruct or limit the criminal liability of politicians, and which exist throughout much of the modern democratic world.

Though anecdotal evidence suggests that immunity promotes corruption, neither the political economy literature on accountability nor the empirical literature on the determinants of corruption has devoted attention to the immunity of politicians. A likely reason for this omission is the dearth of available data. This paper represents the first systematic attempt to quantify the strength of immunity protection for politicians and to test its impact on corruption. In the study, posted on the Social Science Research Network, researchers showed both theoretically and empirically that immunity provisions add an important new dimension to the study of accountability and corruption, and that the incidence of corruption soars when politicians are placed above the law.

The researchers quantified the strength of immunity protection in 74 democracies and verified that immunity is strongly associated with corruption on an aggregate level. They also developed a theoretical model that demonstrated how stronger immunity protection can lead to higher corruption. The model suggested that unaccountable politicians under immunity protection can enhance their chance of re-election by using illegal means, namely supporting interest groups through lax law enforcement, non-collection of taxes, and other forms of favoritism that will go unpunished. Interest groups can then, in turn, provide favorable propaganda, campaign financing, and even vote-buying. Furthermore, the researchers’ theoretical model suggested that higher levels of immunity protection also contribute to poor governance because stronger immunity attracts dishonest people to public office.


Type: Article

Study: Corruption Soars When Politicians Are Placed  Above the Law

Search News



NYU In the News

CUSP Unveils its “Urban Observatory”

Crain’s New York Business profiled CUSP’s “Urban Observatory” that is continuously photographing lower Manhattan to gather scientific data.

Post-Sandy Upgrades at the Langone Medical Center

NY1 reported on the major post-Sandy upgrades and renovations made at the Medical Center to protect the hospital from future catastrophic storms.

Steinhardt Research Helps Solve Tough Speech Problems.

The Wall Street Journal reported on research at Steinhardt’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, including an interview with Assistant Professor Tara McAllister Byun, that uses ultrasound to help solve tough speech problems.

Times Column Lauds Professor Stevenson’s New Memoir

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about “Just Mercy,” a new memoir by Law Professor Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, whom he noted has been called America’s Nelson Mandela.

Entrepreneurship Lab Opens at NYU

Crain’s New York Business covered the opening of the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurial eLab, which will be the headquarters for NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and all of the University’s programs aimed at promoting innovation and startups.

NYU Footer