Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Per Capita Income, Corruption and Religiosity

Guest Post By Mohammad Asghar Aboobaker

Riaz Haq recently published a post on his blog about the culture of corruption in Pakistan.

Riaz's post reminded me of a Pew Survey I saw a few years ago which asked people from many countries the following question: How important is religion as part of your daily life? The survey results are shown here in a bar graph.

The original corruption index was shown between 1-10 with 1 being the most corrupt. I changed that to make it easier to see. I plotted 10 minus corruption index (higher number representing higher corruption) against the importance of religion by country (Chart 1). I was expecting that it will not show much of a trend but it showed some interesting insight. If you draw a best fit linear line to this data, it shows an upward slope, meaning that the countries with lower importance of religion are less corrupt. More interesting was how the high importance of religion and high corruption had many data points clumped together in the top right hand corner.

chart 2

One would think that corruption maybe related to per capita income of a country. Sure enough, when you plot GNI per capita adjusted for buying power, the lower income was related to higher corruption. (Chart 2)

chart 3

The analysis would not be complete if I did not plot importance of religion with per capita income. (Chart 3). If nothing else, it proves Marx to be correct to some extent that the religion is opium for (poor) masses.

This maybe just different insight and one can extract different conclusions that I have drawn. The data is from 2009 and 2010.

The author of this post, M. Asghar Aboobaker, is the founder, chairman and treasurer of Pakistani-American Cultural Center in Silicon Valley, CA. He has worked in high tech industry for more than 30 years as a business manager as well as engineering manager at companies like Intel Corporation. Currently he is the managing director of a venture fund, K2 Ventures. He has also run businesses as CEO and is on board of startups. He has been on board of directors of more than 3 non-profit organizations in last 20 years. Asghar has Masters of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from UCLA and BSEE from NED in Karachi.

Source: MotherJones

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

The Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Pakistani Judges' Jihad Against Corruption

Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan

Deeply Religious People Profoundly Ignorant About Religion?
Zardari Corruption Probe

Infections Cause Low IQ in Africa, South Asia?
NRO Amnesty Order Overturned

Transparency International Rankings 2009

Transparency International Corruption Index 2010


Mohan said...

Nice one. But, Reliousness is an un necessary variable. because it can readily be seen from the data itself that US is richer than all the european countries(PPP) and highly religious and poor ones like Bulgaria is irreligious. May be its an exception, but that can be said about many countries. The lack of religiousness may be also due to some factors like communism.Ex-communist states are extremely corrupt. They dont have much money, so there are no huge scandals like our 2G scam.

But corruption is as you said very much related to income. More than that, it seems like more the state care you, more you will care the state.

Anonymous said...

because it can readily be seen from the data itself that US is richer than all the european countries(PPP) and highly religious and poor ones like Bulgaria is irreligious.

US is a HUGE country compared to Europe.Here you'll find that the most advanced parts New England,New York,California etc are irreligious and the most backward parts are religious.

You can't really compare East Europe as West Europe has a 50 year head start but even here you'll notice irreligious countries like Czech Republic are doing relatively better than religious ones like Poland.

Religion breeds fatalism and takes peoples concentration away from productive thoughts required for progress.

Thank god the ppl running India are irreligious(ie they use religion as an ethnic identity as in us vs them but nobody least of all the BJP wants to introduce Hindu law over current law or run a country according to the Mahabharat some such thing..

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Thank god the ppl running India are irreligious(ie they use religion as an ethnic identity as in us vs them but nobody least of all the BJP wants to introduce Hindu law over current law or run a country according to the Mahabharat some such thing.. "

92% of Indians vs 91% of Pakistanis say religion is very important to them.

Nations, such as India and Pakistan, where the huge majorities of people claim religion is very important in daily lives are also among the most corrupt.

George Perkovich, the author of "India's Nuclear Bomb" has talked about the rise in India of a radicalized, ultra-nationalistic BJP for the "glory of the Hindu race and rashtra (nation)". Perkovich added that "the Bharatiya Janata Party, has long felt that nuclear weapons offer a quicker ride to the top. Like atavistic nationalists elsewhere, they believe that pure explosive power will somehow earn respect and build pride."

And here's Pankaj Mishra in a recent piece in The Guardian:

Certainly, an unblinkered vision of South Asia would feature a country whose fanatically ideological government in 1998 conducted nuclear tests, threatened its neighbour with all-out war and, four years later, presided over the massacre of 2,000 members of a religious minority. Long embattled against secessionist insurgencies on its western and eastern borders, the "flailing" state of this country now struggles to contain a militant movement in its heartland. It is also where thousands of women are killed every year for failing to bring sufficient dowry and nearly 200,000 farmers have committed suicide in the previous decade.

Needless to say, the country described above is not Pakistan but India, which, long feared to be near collapse, has revamped its old western image through what the American writer David Rieff calls the most "successful national re-branding" and "cleverest PR campaign" by a political and business establishment since "Cool Britannia" in the 1990s. Pakistan, on the other hand, seems to have lost all control over its international narrative.

iqbal singh said...


Once again you have taken things out of context and allowed your bias to give it the spin you desire.

Perkovich book mainly illustrates the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the political climate of 1998 in BJP ruled India. BJP lost the next election!

The very articulate and eloquent Mishra was specifically addressing the 'ills' of Indian Society which he thought can only be rid off, albeit gradually, via the democratic process as in India. Once again it happened BJP lost the next election!

Asadi said...

Riaz SAHIB, you cannot present bivariate data and then make multivariate conclusions from it. In order to come up with this relationship, you have to put it in a regression model, and religion in that model will probably end up statistically insignificant as explanatory variable when you control for other factors. Also, I would have a problem with the white supremacist definition of corruption. I think global wars are bigger corruption, the movement of personnel from the military and industry to politics for special interest purposes is also bigger corruption than the petty theft or tiny ass kickbacks that are referred to as corruption in those euro centric definitions. The Pakistan army according to the REAL definition of corruption is much more corrupt than any politician in Pakistan.

Anonymous said...


Truw true

The west has very little transactional corruption u don't need to pay bribes to get a drivers license,birth certificate,register a business etc but the wholesale hijacking of institutions by high finance and special interest groups is a lot lot more than what exists in most emerging economies.

Anonymous said...

IQ is negatively correlated with corruption, GDP, etc. The root cause is the low IQ of S.Asians.

Riaz Haq said...

India politicians in Karnataka seek God's mediation, according to the BBC:

Two arch political rivals in the Indian state of Karnataka have decided to resolve their political differences before a Hindu god.

The state chief minister and his opposition rival - a former chief minister - agree that a divine showdown will resolve their dispute.

On 27 June they are due to present their arguments in a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Manjunatha.

He is the deity who arbitrates on land and property disputes.

The BBC's Habib Beary in the state capital Bangalore says that Manjunatha will seldom have been called on to adjudicate between two such high-profile litigants.

Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has been accused by opposition leader HD Kumaraswamy of corruption.

Mr Kumaraswamy has threatened to expose land scams allegedly committed by Mr Yeddyurappa, in addition to accusing the chief minister of trying to "buy" his silence on the matter through intermediaries.

In reply, Mr Yeddyurappa has rubbished the allegations as "humbug", and has challenged his rival to stand before Lord Manjunatha and repeat his charge. Mr Kumaraswamy has accepted the challenge.

The former chief minister is so convinced as to the strength of his case that he has declared his willingness not only to testify before God but also before an inquiry.

"I am even prepared to undergo the truth serum test," Mr Kumaraswamy said.

In an open letter to his opposition rival, the chief minister said: "I believe in God. I hope you are also a believer in God. Therefore I am throwing you a challenge... If you have the courage to stick to your allegations in front of the Almighty, I will appreciate your courage."

However the chief minister's party colleagues are unhappy over the oath challenge.

Karnataka Health Minister Sreeramalu said that God should not have to arbitrate in the state's political disputes.

"Such actions would only affect the religious sentiments of people," he said.

A senior Congress leader, Motamma has also described the oath challenge as childish.

"The chief minister has lowered the image of the high office he holds," she said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting excerpts from Anatol Lieven's "Pakistan-A Hard Country" on the role of religion and a description of Edhi Foundation as the essence of Pakistan's real civil society:

"Charities with a religious character tend to more favored and more trusted. It is also true of Pakistan's most famous charitable institution by far, Edhi Foundation, which is nonreligious; however, Abdus Sattar Edhi is himself a deeply religious man, known by the public at large as Maulana (a Muslim distinguished by his piety and learning)even though he is not a Muslim scholar and in fact greatly dislikes being called this.

There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its own elected representatives- to see the flag of the Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality".

Another excerpt from Lieven's book:

"Levels of trust in Pakistani state institutions are extremely low, and for good reason. Partly in consequence, Pakistan has one of the lowest levels of tax collection outside Africa. On the other hand, charitable donations, at almost 5% of GDP, is one of the highest rates in the world".

Lieven quotes the following commandment (2:172) from the Quran:

"Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteousness is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms."

Riaz Haq said...

90% of Indians are idiots, says Justice Katju according to India Times:

NEW DELHI: Ninety percent of Indians are “idiots” who can easily be misled by mischievous elements in the name of religion, Press Council of India (PCI) chairperson Justice Markandey Katju claimed today.

“I say ninety percent of Indians are idiots. You people don’t have brains in your heads….It is so easy to take you for a ride,” he said at a seminar here.

He said that a communal riot could be incited in Delhi for as meagre an amount as Rs 2000. He said that all somebody has to do is make a mischievous gesture of disrespect to a place of worship and people start fighting each other.

“You mad people will start fighting amongst yourself not realising that some agent provocateur is behind this,”he said.

Katju said that before 1857 there was no communalism in the country but the situation was different now. “Today 80 percent Hindus are communal and 80 percent Muslims are communal. This is the harsh truth, bitter truth that I am telling you. How is it that in 150 years you have gone backwards instead of moving forward because the English kept injecting poison,” Katju said.

“The policy that emanated from London after the mutiny in 1857 that there is only one way to control this country that is to make Hindus and Muslims fight each other,” he said.

He said that then there was a propaganda that Hindi was the language of Hindus and Urdu of Muslims. “Our ancestors also studied Urdu, but it is so easy to fool you. You are idiots so how difficult is it to make an idiot of you,” Katju said.

Katju said that he was saying these harsh things to make Indians, whom he loved to understand the whole game and not remain fools.

Riaz Haq said...

8 of 10 most corrupt nations on TI survey 2013 are #Muslim.

Riaz Haq said...

Pew Research reports that Islamic symbols are found on the flags of 21 countries (out of 64 with religious symbols on their fags) in sub-Saharan Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East and North Africa. In Bahrain, the national flag features five white triangles, symbolizing the Five Pillars of Islam. Algeria, Turkey, Brunei and Uzbekistan are some of the many countries that include an Islamic star and crescent on their national flag.

Riaz Haq said...

The differences between America and other nations have long been a subject of fascination and study for social scientists, dating back to Alexis de Tocqueville, the early 19th century French political thinker who described the United States as “exceptional.”

Nearly 200 years later, Americans’ emphasis on individualism and work ethic stands out in surveys of people around the world. When Pew Research Center surveyed people in 44 countries last spring, 57% of Americans disagreed with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38%.

True to the stereotype, surveys showed that Americans are more likely to believe that hard work pays off. When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a “10” or “very important,” compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations.

Americans also stand out for their religiosity and optimism, especially when compared with other relatively wealthy countries.

In general, people in richer nations are less likely than those in poorer nations to say religion plays a very important role in their lives. But Americans are more likely than their counterparts in economically advanced nations to deem religion very important. More than half (54%) of Americans said religion was very important in their lives, much higher than the share of people in Canada (24%), Australia (21%) and Germany (21%), the next three wealthiest economies we surveyed from 2011 through 2013.

People in richer nations tend to place less emphasis on the need to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values than people in poorer countries do. While the share of Americans holding that view is far lower than in poorer nations like Indonesia and Ghana (each 99%), the U.S. stands out when compared with people in other economically advanced nations. In the U.S., 53% say belief in God is a prerequisite for being moral and having good values, much higher than the 23% in Australia and 15% in France, according to our study of 39 nations between 2011 and 2013.

Americans are also more upbeat than people in other wealthy nations when asked how their day is going. While we ask this question to help respondents get more comfortable with the interviewer, it provides a glimpse into people’s moods and reveals a slightly negative correlation between those saying the day is a good one and per capita gross domestic product. About four-in-ten Americans (41%) described their day as a “particularly good day,” a much higher share than those in Germany (21%), the UK (27%) and Japan (8%).

Riaz Haq said...

Religion fading with younger Americans: Just 12% say they're religious among age 18-34 vs 63% in 70+ age group, according to recent Pew Survey

Americans who say their generation is religious
Age 18-34 12%
35-50 21%
51-69 42%
70-87 63%