International Organization


International Integration and National Corruption

Wayne Sandholtz and Mark M. Gray


We argue that greater degrees of international integration lead to lower levels of corruption, which we define as the misuse of public office for private gain. We theorize that international factors affect a country's level of corruption through two principal channels. One acts through economic incentives, altering for various actors the costs and benefits of engaging in corrupt acts. The second mode is normative. Prevailing norms in international society delegitimate and stigmatize corruption. Countries that are more integrated into international society are more exposed to economic and normative pressures against corruption. We therefore test the following hypothesis: the more a country is tied into international networks of exchange, communication, and organization, the lower its level of corruption is likely to be. The analysis of data from approximately 150 countries strongly confirms our expectation.

Wayne Sandholtz is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. He can be reached at

Mark Gray is Research Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. He can be reached at