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Explaining corruption : The role of national culture and its implications for international management

Yusaf H. Akbar (CEU Business School, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary)
Vukan Vujić (Department of Economics, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 29 April 2014




The purpose of this paper is to feature a cross-national study that investigates the relationship between national culture and corruption.


The study is based on the so-called “Grid-Group” framework of culture. An analysis based on a sample of 55 countries is employed to estimate the relationship between corruption and cultural, economic and political variables. Cultural dimensions were developed using the World Values Survey (WVS) Wave 4 and 5.


The study finds robust and statistically significant relationships. Cultures with strong hierarchy and fatalism are positively correlated with corruption whereas egalitarian cultures correlate with lower corruption. The regression model employed demonstrates robust statistical significance when all variable categories (culture, economic and political) were employed.

Research limitations/implications

First, as a function of available data, future research should include more countries. Second, as with all previous culture-corruption studies to date, there is no explicit treatment of sub-cultures within a given country in this study: research on culture and corruption in large, multi-ethnic countries such as India, China or the USA where researching regional, sub-cultural differences may be important and insightful.

Practical implications

Strengthening whistle-blower processes open to managers in hierarchical and fatalistic cultures will be an important tactical weapon in fighting corruption. Multinational companies who have progressively phased out expatriate managers in their subsidiaries and replaced them with local managers should invest in training for these managers designed to combat their cultural responses to corrupt behavior. Public policy must focus on institutional reform, breaking down hierarchies, promoting greater efficiency, transparency and accountability. This is a broad and far-reaching target that has to be tackled at all levels of society and across multiple stakeholders. Public policymakers should develop strategies closely with the private sector to develop anti-corruption education and training programs for both public sector and private sector managers.


This is the first time quantitative empirical research has used the Douglas “Grid-Group” framework to estimate the role of culture in explaining corruption. From a policy and strategy perspective, the paper offers specific recommendations to governments and companies.



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive and valuable comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


H. Akbar, Y. and Vujić, V. (2014), "Explaining corruption : The role of national culture and its implications for international management", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 191-218.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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