Worldwide, One Out of Four People Paid a Bribe Last Year | Smart News | Smithsonian
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Worldwide, One Out of Four People Paid a Bribe Last Year

While 9 out of 10 people in the survey say they want to act against corruption, many also reported that they had to pay bribes to get simple services

smithsonian.com

Image: epSOS.de

Slipping a $20 bill to the woman at the DMV might seem like a weird idea to you. Average people in the United States don’t tend to bribe their police officers or doctors. But worldwide, 27 percent of people say that they paid a bribe to get public services last year.

This statistic comes from Transparency International’s annual Global Corruption Barometer report, which surveyed people around the world about corruption. In some places, like Liberia and Sierra Leone, over 75 percent of people reported paying a bribe.

Even in the United States, 36 percent of respondents say that the level of corruption has increased a lot over the past two years. They pointed the finger largely at political parties—76 percent of people in the United States said that political parties were affected by corruption.

To get these numbers, Transparency International surveyed about 1,000 people from each of the 107 countries they looked at. That’s less than one percent of the population of most of these countries, and some of the questions on the survey might be seen as leading. (“To what extent is this country’s government run by a few big entities acting in their own best interest?”)

Still, the survey included some interesting stories of corruption. A woman in Venezuela had to bribe police to release her son who they had beaten and taken away for no reason. In Nepal, local officials made a list of fake mothers, to pocket money that was meant for women to give birth in hospitals rather than at home.

The survey didn’t just look at small bribes passed by hand between people either. It also looked a political bribes, parliamentary bribes, media bribes and medical bribes. The BBC writes:

It is political parties, “the driving force of democracies”, as TI calls them, which are perceived to be the most corrupt public institution.

That is, in large part, because corruption is not just about bribery. Almost two out of three people say they believe personal relationships are what help get things done in the public sector – one in two say their government is largely or completely run by special interest groups.

Corruption is, as the report suggests, a global problem, and one that isn’t going away. Very few people thought that their country was getting less corrupt. And while 9 out of 10 people in the survey say they want to act against corruption, many also reported that they felt they had no choice but to pay the bribes demanded of them.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Bonobos Offer Banana Bribes for Friendship
Clarence Darrow: Jury Tamperer?

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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