Corruption and country size Insights from small state studies

Main Article Content

Leno Saarniit Külli Sarapuu


An elaborate body of academic debate deals with public sector corruption as a detrimental social problem. Considerable attention has been paid to the contextual factors of corruption and the role of wider societal norms and institutions in enhancing or deterring corrupt practices. However, there is only a limited amount of knowledge available on one factor – the size of countries. Are small or large countries more prone to corruption? There are a few studies that aim to clarify this issue, but the findings are contradictory. The aim of the article is to turn to a stream of social science research specifically interested in country size – small state studies – and to explore the relevance of this knowledge for understanding public sector corruption. The analysis shows that country size is a significant contextual characteristic that affects economic, political and socio-cultural factors of corruption. The article raises the need for further studies into causal mechanisms of size by including more small states into international comparative research, turning attention to qualitative comparative studies, and taking a closer look at the link between socio-cultural factors of corruption and country size. 

Article Details

Author Biographies

Leno Saarniit, TalTech, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance

Leno Saarniit is lecturer at Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Leno’s research focusses on integrity management systems, especially contextual factors influencing the design and implementation on integrity management instruments. She has been a lead researcher in Estonian National Integrity System assessment and surveys of integrity management systems in Estonian state institutions. Her previous articles have been published in Public Integrity and Ethical Perspectives. Email:

Külli Sarapuu, TalTech, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance

Külli Sarapuu is Associate Professor of Public Sector Management and Organization, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Before joining TalTech, she worked for the Estonian Government Office and the Ministry of Research and Education. Külli’s research focuses on public sector organization, civil service systems, public sector coordination, and the governance of small states. She has published numerous book chapters and articles on these topics, including in the journals Public Management Review, International Review of Administrative Sciences and International Journal of Public Administration. Email:

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