Before discussing that, it's worth noting that children are not the targets of federal corruption investigations, yet having a relatively large number of them pads younger states in USA Today's analysis by spreading out the number of convictions over a larger population base. Older states do not fare particularly well. Thus, a ranking of the states by corruption convictions per 100,000 people aged 18 and older:
|1. North Dakota||10.70|
|8. South Dakota||6.79|
|10. New Jersey||6.33|
|15. West Virginia||5.19|
|19. New York||4.72|
|29. Rhode Island||3.18|
|35. North Carolina||2.56|
|39. South Carolina||2.15|
|41. New Mexico||2.04|
|48. New Hampshire||1.37|
See a visual representation of the data here. A spreadsheet of the data are here.
This corruption index shows no meaningful relationship with the usual suspects. Corruption does not reach statistical significance (p<.05) in correlating with estimated average IQ, the percentage of a state's population that is white, Presidential voting patterns in '04, economic inequality as measured by the gini coefficient, the violent crime rate, or median income. There are moderate relationships between the percentage of a state's population that is black (.30, p=.03) and the percentage of a state's population that is Hispanic (.33, p=.02), but these are not nearly as vigorous as the relationship between race and other kinds of crimes are.
Weather aside, if existence in bustling urban centers isn't a necessity, Montana and the Dakotas are generally regarded as decent places to live if, yet they are among the worst performers on the list. Germans and Scandanavians are usually not among the ancestries that first come to mind when thinking about governmental corruption. Are Minnesota and North Dakota really that different from one another? How about Montana and Wyoming?
The USA Today article quotes a North Dakotan suggesting this method of measurement might just as well indicate the level of vigilance against corruption as it does the prevalence of corruption itself:
Don Morrison, executive director of the non-partisan North Dakota Center for the Public Good, said it may be that North Dakotans are better at rooting out corruption when it occurs.Population density doesn't correlate with corruption, either. But the first part of Morrison's comments may have merit. Last year, I created a criminal strictness index by state, computed by comparing the levels of violent and property crime to the incarceration rate. The simple idea being that if two states experience the same crime rates, but state A has a higher percentage of people behind bars than state B does, state A is a stricter state than state B is.
"Being a sparsely populated state, people know each other," he said. "We know our elected officials and so certainly to do what the governor of Illinois did is much more difficult here."
While these are federal convictions, they are tipped off and aided by state and local authorities, and political pressures by state and local officials presumably play some role as well. The strictness index correlates more strongly with corruption (.37, p=.01) than any other variable I looked at.
The Inductivist recently turned to the GSS to take a look at corruption by US geographic region. Amalgamating populations and convictions by state into the nine Census bureau designated areas and comparing them to the average corruption scores Inductivist found does not yield a statistically significant relationship (p=.16). I suspect that federal corruption convictions per capita present too much of a mixed bag to use as a proxy for the level of actual corruption in a state.
Thanks to Randall Parker for the initial heads-up on federal corruption conviction numbers.