Another Annual CPI Is Out. Yet Again, Here’s a Gentle Public Service Reminder Not to Focus on Year-to-Year Changes in Individual Countries’ Scores

Every year for the last umpteen years (I’ve lost count), shortly before or shortly after Transparency International releases its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and associated reports and press releases, I’ve done a blog post reminding everybody that we should not attention to year-to-year changes in individual countries’ CPI scores, and we certainly should not construct elaborate narratives about how well countries are doing in fighting corruption based on those changes. And every year, TI itself and pretty much all the media coverage of the CPI basically ignores this and does it anyway. If anything, TI seems to have gotten worse about this in the last couple of years.

Still, it seems like this admonition bears repeating, so now that TI has released its 2022 CPI, I’ll do it again. Rather than repeat, yet again, all the reasons that looking at year-to-year changes in an individual country’s CPI score is uninformative and counterproductive, I’ll just supply links to posts from prior years explaining why this is so. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As I’ve also said many times, I like the CPI! I’m not one of those academics who likes to trash it. I think it provides a lot of relevant information, and is very useful for many research and advocacy purposes. But really, frustrating as it is to keep hammering on this same message, these scores cannot be used as indicators of progress or backsliding, and should not be so employed.

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