July 12, 2013

Chart of the Week: The wide world of bribery

Every year, Transparency International asks people around the world about their experiences with public corruption — more than 114,000 in 107 countries for their latest “Global Corruption Barometer.” The map below depicts the percentage of people in each of the surveyed countries who reported paying a bribe sometime in the past 12 months to any of eight public services; the scale runs from green (lowest) to red (highest).

Percentage of respondents in each country who paid a bribe in the past 12 months (Source: Transparency International)
Percentage of respondents in each country who paid a bribe in the past 12 months (Source: Transparency International)

The survey found that 84% of people in Sierra Leone reported paying bribes. The United States came in at a respectable 7%, but at the very bottom (or top, perhaps) were Australia, Denmark, Finland and Japan, where just 1% in each country reported paying bribes. (One reason we liked Transparency’s map is because, by clicking on each country, you can get the percentage of self-reported bribers. The same website also has other interactive corruption-related maps.)

It’s interesting to compare the Transparency International results with Ernst & Young’s latest survey of business fraud in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. While corruption perceptions in some countries are quite similar in the two surveys, they vary dramatically in others. For instance, 96% of Slovenian respondents in the Ernst & Young survey said that bribery and corruption were widespread in their country. But in the Transparency survey, only 6% of Slovenians said they themselves had paid a bribe in the past 12 months.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: International Governments and Institutions

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Josh Dorfman4 years ago

    This is a highly flawed study for a variety of reasons, many of which are related to a rigid adherence to the word “bribery”. Japan, for example, has an incredibly high rate of bribery. But, they call it “gift money”. It would be much more revealing to ask the Japanese sample if they’d recently had to give a gift. Cross-cultural polling requires a much more nuanced approach.

  2. william jay4 years ago

    You left out N.J. were pay to play is taught in the first grade.

    1. akif nuray4 years ago

      list is for countries not for counties dear ,

  3. Roberto Cumbia4 years ago

    With nearly every job I’ve had here in the US I witnessed corruption — mostly in the form of illegal kickbacks paid in exchange for business. If the US ranks so comparatively low in the world, based on empirical experience I would have to question the integrity of this study

  4. MIke Madden4 years ago

    I don’t believe the 7% for the USA. I never knew a person that had to pay a bribe to get something. I think that your methodology is flawed. If someone in the US is accepting bribes from the general public for some form of service, etc, that individual would be reported before you could blink. Seven percent corruption is a significant level, not a “respectable” level, unless you compare us to most of the world’s populations. I’ve lived in Australia, Europe and the US and between the US and Australia one sees no difference in the way public officials behave. I suspect that the 7% reflects people’s perceptions rather than actual personal experiences.

  5. QPMcColly4 years ago

    How can this data be respected? Are bribe paying mobsters in the US going to ‘self report’ for the sake of the survey?