Public corruption in the US – Illinois easily bested by LA, MS, KY

US culture, US Politics

The “corruption rate” mapped below is calculated as the total number of public corruption convictions from 1997 to 2006 per 100,000 residents. The rates by state were compiled by Corporate Crime Reporter, based on Department of Justice statistics. Surprise: Illinois is not at the top; it’s pushed into the second tier by the Deep South. The ‘cleanest’ states, meanwhile, are in the West.

On The Monkey Cage, Prof. Sigelman first posted these data in tabular form, and Prof. Sides then followed up with a graph. That just left Prof. Gellman wishing for a map to better show the regional patterns. Well, this is my attempt at using the impressive-looking Many Eyes features to provide one. It’s a first attempt at using Many Eyes: I saw Nick Beaudrot use it to map out data before and I had to also give it a try.

The map may take a while to load, but is interactive: hover your mouse over a state and its corruption rate is shown. Clicking on a state highlights it; click on an unused area of the map to return to nationwide colour – and for some reason you may have to do this right at the beginning as well. On the version on the Many Eyes site itself, selecting a range of corruption rates in the legend highlights all states that fall within that range on the map.

Oddball observation of the day: at first glance I see a similarity between this map and the one showing where Obama did relatively best and worst, in comparison with the Democrats’ presidential score in 2004, among whites at least. Some parallel cultural elements at work?

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. butrflynet  •  Jan 4, 2009 @9:30 am

    Nimh wrote:

    at first glance I see a similarity between this map and the one showing where Obama did relatively best and worst, in comparison with the Democrats’ presidential score in 2004, among whites at least. Some parallel cultural elements at work?

    I don’t have handy a map showing the results for Obama with the data described. Can you supply some more detail to what you are observing? It is difficult to assess the parallel cultural elements you imply without more detail provided.

  2. nimh  •  Jan 4, 2009 @12:31 pm

    Well, I got the map, it’s in the post I linked in! :-) But what cultural elements could possibly be involved in any such correlation? Probably a pretty meaningless exercise, though it’s always entertaining for dilettants like me to speculate… ;)

    Of course, if there even is a correlation it probably means nothing at all, there’s all kinds of correlations that mean little. And I’m not suggesting any kind of causal effect or anything. Just at most that the two maps might both be influenced, at some of very many levels, by the some cultural characteristics?

    Mind you, while I guess it makes some sense to exclude the block-like black vote from the measure of how well Obama did comparatively to his predecessor, there’s not really any good reason to exclude Hispanics, Asians etc — but hey, this is just off the cuff and the white vote numbers are the ones I have a handy state-by-state table for at hand ;-)

    So for what it’s worth, here’s a comparison between the corruption rankings and the state rankings of how Obama did compared to Kerry among white voters:

    – States that are in the top 40% of Obama states when it comes to the gains he made on Kerry’s score among white voters and in the bottom 40% of the corruption rate ranking: OR, CA, UT, CO, WI, IN, KS, SC, NC (9 states).

    – States that are in the top 40% of Obama states when it comes to the gains he made on Kerry’s score among white voters and in the top 40% of the corruption rate ranking: VA (1 state).

    The other way around:

    – States that are in the bottom 40% of Obama states when it comes to the gains he made on Kerry’s score among white voters and in the top 40% of the corruption rate ranking: LA, MS, AL, TN, OK, KY, FL, CT (8 states).

    – States that are in the bottom 40% of Obama states when it comes to the gains he made on Kerry’s score among white voters and in the bottom 40% of the corruption rate ranking: WA, AZ, NV (3 states).

    Trip out: all in all 17 states that fit the seeming correlation and 4 that don’t. I’ll leave any speculating about why to others ;-)

  3. greg  •  Jan 4, 2009 @9:12 pm

    Is convictions per capita really a good measure of a state’s corruption? Consider any of the many third world countries with pervasive corruption and few convictions.

  4. engineer  •  Jan 12, 2009 @2:26 pm

    It’s the mindset that allows corruption that kills me. When I lived in Louisiana, there were people who were darned proud of Gov. Edwards, very proud that he’d always gotten away with it and had beat the rap every time. (The Feds evenutally got him.) In the ’84 election, a good friend told me she was voting Edwards. When I asked how she could vote for someone who was so obviously corrupt, she said, “he supports UNO (University of New Orleans) and I’m voting my pocketbook.” Arrgggh!

  5. nimh  •  Jan 13, 2009 @11:40 am

    Yeah … Holland is a pretty Calvinist country, so I’ve got little experience with corruption – it’s just the construction industry that’s a cesspot of fraud. It’s weird coming across it here, makes me feel awkward – like, you’re supposed to give the doctor some extra money cash, in an envelope – but how much are you supposed to give? Noone’s got a clear-cut answer…

    I guess the mindset you mention comes from, I dunno … I guess it takes some belief in the system as it should work properly to want it to work properly. Like, if you hold out little hope that the economic and political system would, by itself, have little time for you or your concerns, then it stands to reason that you’d embrace this culture of patronage instead.

    Like, yeah, rules are great – but it’s not like the powers that be give a damn about us with their rules anyway, so if having our own man in there securing our own piece of the pie is the only way to get some, more power to him.

    Maybe that’s why corrupt political figures can get so entrenched especially in poor or minority areas (as opposed to the insiders’ corruption on Wall Street) — the “I’ll help you get yours” kind of populism sells well if the constituents feel they have no fair hope of getting some shot at the pie otherwise. And what moral obligation should you feel to play fair if you feel that it’s not like they’re treating you fairly?

  6. nimh  •  Jan 13, 2009 @11:44 am

    Greg had a fair point that I never acknowledged, btw – convictions per capita is only a realistic measure, of course, if there’s an equally reasonable chance that corrupt people will be convicted. A state with medium corruption that happens to be pursuing cases very assertively would, hypothetically, end up at the top of the table, above states that have more corruption but don’t bother to uncover it. Not sure whether any of that is happening in this map though..

  7. cicerone imposter  •  Jan 26, 2009 @4:56 pm

    I think there are many such correlations that have absolutely no relationship.

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