Which region is the most corrupt? The Blagojevich scandal has reminded us how corrupt Chicago politics is, but is it a problem endemic to the region?
The General Social Survey asked 1,513 people, "In the last five years, how often have you or a member of your immediate family come across a public official who hinted they wanted, or asked for, a bribe or favour in return for a service?" Answers ranged from "never" (1) to "very often" (5). Here are the means by region:
Corruption mean score
West South Central 1.31
East South Central 1.29
New England 1.26
Middle Atlantic 1.21
South Atlantic 1.16
East North Central 1.16
West North Central 1.10
First, 87% of respondents answered "never" (number not shown) which backs up the idea that the U.S. is a low-corruption country.
You can see that the Midwest, especially the western half, has the lowest levels of corruption. States from Texas and Oklahoma to Kentucky and Alabama have the biggest problem, and yes, New Orleans immediately came to mind. The difference between the best and worst regions is a third of a standard deviation.
These numbers match up with this USA Today corruption conviction map to some extent, but the conviction data show the Dakotas to be corrupt.
The state-by-state map, of course, gives a more detailed picture, but I trust survey data more since convictions depend on many factors and thus are a more indirect measure of corrupt behavior.
There's the stereotype of the "old boys network" in the South, but I've heard that a lot of those little Mexican towns in Texas are notoriously corrupt.