Is it possible to measure corruption, and if so, how? One can persuasively argue that measuring corruption is more an art form than a precisely defined empirical process. In the past several years, a flood of new work has emerged, challenging the validity of traditional corruption measurements and arguing for new and improved tools for national policymakers, civil society and donors alike.
We aim through these web pages to provide guidance on new ways to measure corruption, but with some important caveats. The first, and most significant, is the need for users of corruption measurement tools to employ multiple sources of quantitative data, qualitative narrative analysis and real-life case studies to “paint a picture” of corruption in a country, sub-national, or sector context. No single data source or tool will offer a definitive measurement. It is only through the careful comparison of available tools – and sometimes the generation of new tools – that users can arrive at a more accurate measurement.
Another important point is the need for users to gravitate toward “actionable” measurements that provide insight into where reforms can be made. For instance, measures of corruption that capture impacts on marginalized groups, such as women, are likely to highlight priorities for reforms. High risk sectors for corruption may vary by gender, as may characteristics of corruption, for example women in many countries report being demanded sexual favors in return for access to services, By contrast, little value exists in an anti-corruption measurement if it doesn’t tell us what needs to be fixed. For example, commonly used external measures of corruption outputs, such as Western businessmen’s perceptions of bribery in business transactions, are extremely broad and not usable for this type of analysis. However, nationally generated tools customized to a country’s specific policy challenges have the advantage of being designed to yield actionable data.