Health & Spirit

Are Women in Politics More Honest?

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

What, I wonder, explains the gender gap in political corruption?

Women make up almost 20 percent of the current Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, but they don't come anywhere near that proportion of Congress' scandals.

Will it take breaking news of a female lawmaker doing something truly stupid like former Rep. Anthony Weiner's tweeting self-portraits of his private parts to strangers to know we are beginning to achieve gender equality?

This thought comes to mind with news of a new study by political science researchers at Rice University and titled " 'Fairer Sex' or Purity Myth? Corruption, Gender and Institutional Context."

Its analysis of data from countries around the world finds the gender gap in corruption to be an international phenomenon, interestingly in democratic countries more than in dictatorships and other autocracies.

In democratic countries with generally low levels of corruption, write Rice University's Justin Esarey and Gina Chirillo, the study's authors, women are less likely to be corrupt and less likely to tolerate corruption than their male counterparts.

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Recruiting more women into politics in deeply corrupt countries probably would not decrease corruption, Esarey told Science Daily; but in less corrupt countries, such recruitment might work wonders in keeping sticky fingers out of the public till.

Why? Hanna Rosin, author of "The End of Men and the Rise of Women," recently compared the pressures on women in high positions to those of Jackie Robinson, the first black player to break Major League Baseball's color line. Warned by his team's owner to set a good example, he wasn't about to gamble on any behavior that wasn't worth it.

Small wonder, then, that during October's budget stalemate and government shutdown, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee, suggested that the whole mess might go away if the guys sat back and let women settle it.

"If we put all the women, Republican and Democrat, in the House together," the Florida congresswoman told MSNBC's "Morning Joe," "the consensus from all of us is that we would get this done in a few hours,"


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