Anticorruption Co-opted: Problems with the Purported Polygamy-Corruption Connection

Whether or not a country’s culture can be blamed for causing corruption has come up on the blog before.  This question comes up in a great variety of contexts, but one that may be less familiar to many readers is the purported causal link between polygamy and corruption. Polygamy has been called a “breeding ground” for corruption, and blamed for the spread of corruption in, for example, South AfricaGhana, Nigeria, and South Sudan. But the empirical evidence to support this claim is very weak. Given that weakness, it’s somewhat puzzling why the claim has gotten so much traction in some quarters. This may be one of those cases where the alleged link between a cultural practice (here, polygamy) and corruption is motivated less by a concern about corruption, and more by objections to–and deep social clashes over–the cultural practice. Corruption, in other words, may be a stalking horse for other concerns. Continue reading