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

Paying It Backward: NYU Alum Funds Scholarships

The Wall Street Journal profiled Trustee Evan Chesler on why he decided to chair the Momentum fund-raising campaign.

A Nobel Prize Party: Cheese, Bubbles, and a Boson

The New Yorker talked to Professor Kyle Cranmer and graduate student Sven Kreiss about NYU’s role in the discovery of the Higgs boson, which resulted in a Nobel prize for the scientists who predicted its existence.

The World as They Knew It

The New York Times reviewed the exhibit at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World on how ancient Greeks and Romans mapped the known and unknown areas of their world.

Elite Institutions: Far More Diverse Than They Were 20 Years Ago

NYU made stronger gains over the last 20 years in increasing diversity than any other major research university, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Program Seeks to Nurture ‘Data Science Culture’
at Universities

The New York Times reported on the multi-million collaboration among NYU and two other universities to harness the potential of Big Data, including an interview with Professor Yann LeCun, director of NYU’s Center for Data Science.

NYU Footer