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Vermont
100
Utah
94.9
Arizona
94.82
Oregon
86.81
Colorado
83.35
Idaho
82.26
Iowa
82.14
Minnesota
78.42
Nebraska
77.18
Washington
74.81
Indiana
71.65
North Carolina
70.82
Wyoming
70.53
New Hampshire
70.06
Nevada
69.9
Michigan
66.85
New Mexico
63.13
Connecticut
59.35
Wisconsin
50.5
Maine
49.9
Texas
48.5
Kansas
45.61
Arkansas
44.67
California
44.33
North Dakota
44.01
Oklahoma
41.25
Virginia
41
Georgia
37.88
Rhode Island
35.48
Missouri
34.79
Massachusetts
33.48
Alabama
30.6
West Virginia
28.93
Maryland
28.67
New Jersey
25.1
Delaware
23.52
Pennsylvania
20.42
Hawaii
19.79
Ohio
19.44
Louisiana
18.22
Mississippi
15.5
Florida
14.34
Tennessee
13.04
South Carolina
11.98
New York
11.44
Montana
8.28
Alaska
4.48
South Dakota
3.87
Illinois
3.36
Kentucky
0.02

Most Corrupt States 2024

Most Corrupt States 2024

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about corruption. We could rest assured that our local, state, and federal governments look out for their citizens' best interests. Unfortunately, many nations worldwide deal with corruption – including the United States. According to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), the United States is the 25th-least corrupt country. Although the United States may not be as corrupt as many other nations globally, there have been some notable scandals and evidence of corruption throughout the years. In some states, this is more prevalent than others.

Why Is It So Difficult to Measure Corruption?

Corruption statistics can be notoriously misleading. One of the main reasons is that governments are largely responsible for passing their own anti-corruption laws—and corrupt officials are less likely to do so. As a result, states with lower levels of corruption often have a higher number of corruption convictions—thanks to more robust laws for preventing, detecting, and punishing corruption—than states with higher levels of corruption, but weaker anti-corruption laws, which lead to fewer convictions.

Additionally, different evaluator's perceptions of "corruption" may differ. For example, some may consider only illegal acts to be corruption (and exactly what is and is not legal can vary by state as well). Others may include acts that are legal, but arguably immoral. For example, a politician who votes against legislation that would benefit his or her constituents, but is opposed by a major campaign donor is not breaking the law, but is arguably corrupt. Additional examples of arguable corruption include redirecting funding intended for a particular cause to instead go to a different cause they personally favor, or awarding a government contract to a business with whom they have a personal relationship rather than allowing multiple companies to submit bid proposals.

Determining Corruption by State

Measuring corruption in a state is an imperfect science. To create the least distorted impression, most indexes compile multiple metrics together, which helps compensate for shortcomings in any single metric. Three of the most prominent corruption indices are the Center for Public Integrity's 2015 State Integrity Investigation (SII), the Coalition for Integrity's 2020 and 2018 States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials (SWAMP) Indices, and Best Life's 2021 Most Corrupt State study, all of which compile several corruption-related metrics. Best Life study compiled both the SII and SWAMP indices (which are themselves composites) and added additional data, including the number of public corruption convictions per 10,000 residents and the number of reported violations by medical providers between 1990-2020 (both adverse action reports and medical malpractice payment reports). Each metric was then given a weighted value and ultimately compiled into a single Corruption Index Score ranging from 100 (most corrupt) to 0 (least corrupt).

The Institute for Corruption's 2018 Corruption in America Survey took a different approach, surveying reporters on the degree of legal and illegal corruption they perceived in the various state government branches. Finally, statistics site FiveThirtyEight analyzed corruption in 2015 using four different metrics and concluded that the true level of corruption in a given state is quite difficult to pin down, as different individual metrics can give wildly differing impressions.

Which US States Are the Most Corrupt?

The answer to this question depends heavily upon which study one is examining.

RankBestLife 2021SWAMP 2020SSI 2015
1VermontWyomingMichigan, Wyoming (tie)
2UtahIdaho-
3ArizonaArizonaDelaware, South Dakota (tie)
4OregonMichigan-
5ColoradoUtahNevada
6IdahoVirginiaPennsylvania
7IowaGeorgiaKansas, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania (tie)
8MinnesotaIndiana-
9NebraskaNorth Carolina-
10WashingtonOregon-

Based on Best Life's analysis, the state with the lowest corruption score was Kentucky, followed by Illinois, South Dakota, and Alaska. The ten states with the highest corruption scores were (in order) Vermont, Utah, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Washington. This result is arguably surprising given that Vermont is considered one of the safest states and boasts a low crime rate.

However, as mentioned previously, a high index score can indicate high corruption, but could also indicate the opposite scenario: heightened vigilance against corruption (which can lead to higher conviction totals, for example).

Due to complexities such as these, corruption rankings are best viewed as a jumping-off point for conversations about corruption rather than the last word on the matter. True understanding of each state's actual level of corruption required deep dives into the data and examination of the specific laws, leadership, and scenarios present in each state.

Most Corrupt States 2024

  • Measures of corruption can be misleading, as corruption is easier to discover in states with strong anti-corruption laws and preventative systems—which corrupt leaders are less likely to implement. Therefore, higher corruption convictions may actually indicate a state with less corruption, and a low number of corruption convictions may indicate a state with greater corruption. Moreover, many actions are arguably immoral, but not illegal, and may be considered corruption by some sources but not by others.
  • Convictions = Ranking of number of public officials convicted of corruption in federal court. Note that this does not include corrupt officials who were not caught or whose corruption was not a federal crime.
  • Convictions Per Capita = Adjusts the number of convictions to account for differences in population between states.
  • Reporter Ratings = Rankings assigned each state in a survey of political reporters. A lower number indicates higher corruption.
  • Lack of Laws = Rankings assigned depending upon the strictness of the laws each state has passed against corruption. A lower number indicates weaker laws and higher corruption.
  • The Illegal/Legal Corruption = Degree of corruption in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches as determined by political reporters. A score of 1 indicates that corruption is not at all common and 5 indicates that corruption is extremely common. Reporters from Maryland and North Dakota did not participate.

Download Table Data

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State
Best Life Score 2021
SWAMP Index Score 2020
SWAMP Index Score 2018
FTE Convictions Rank 2015
FTE Convictions Per Capita Rank 2015
FTE Reporter Rank 2015
FTE Lack of Laws Rank 2015
CAS Illegal Executive Corruption (1-5)
CAS Illegal Judicial Corruption (1-5)
CAS Illegal Legislative Corruption (1-5)
CAS Legal Executive Corruption (1-5)
CAS Legal Judicial Corruption (1-5)
CAS Legal Legislative Corruption (1-5)
State Integrity Investigation (SII) Total Score 2015
SSI Public Access to Information 2015
SSI Political Financing 2015
SSI Electoral Oversight 2015
SSI Executive Accountability 2015
SSI Legislative Accountability 2015
SSI Judicial Accountability 2015
SSI State Budget Process 2015
SSI Civil Service Management 2015
SSI Procurement 2015
SSI Internal Auditing 2015
SSI Lobbying Disclosure 2015
SSI Ethics Enforcement Agencies 2015
SSI Pension Fund Management 2015
Vermont10039.6437504248262122.51.53605584.361.138.738.857.790.854.869.672.971.32461.3
Utah94.931.573143482716212.53.513.5627043.771.548.567.757.590.154.583.38455.846.734.2
Arizona94.8228.81282438102221341.556448.86173.657.867.376.864.855.276.786.853.857.347.9
Oregon86.8138.8155425045371.511.53.51.545937.536.574.354.56154.583.865.75577.158.356.248.8
Colorado83.3550.957314436191.52.532.53.536737.566.376.468.675.866.288.861.977.182.664.241.960.4
Idaho82.2621.241647394310212323.56261.367.484.737.649.95195.955.767.585.467.537.844.6
Iowa82.1447.434033404144111313.56772.861.661.165.166.157.783.662.660.482.653.370.873.8
Minnesota78.4249.9946304637271.51.522.51.536245.666.880.655.6535574.463.266.385.462.551.443.3
Nebraska77.1859.0260454340462.522.53236758.144.585.45761.961.296.959.379.677.170.852.268.3
Washington74.8179.5278294930481123136742.269.970.858.564.16275.659.976.386.861.769.875.8
Indiana71.6536.628223315292122136246.937.769.460.559.954.756.256.367.579.968.354.987.9
North Carolina70.8238.5142214128312233246535.675.370.870.770.855.27853.977.177.164.260.651.7
Wyoming70.5319.5712492642311.53314.55122.536.956.946.760.149.393.451.244.2754037.947.9
New Hampshire70.0667.3567484739172122236124.451.358.374.361.652.276.662.665.475.762.550.272.9
Nevada69.958.09544145129322.53.5345743.849.958.371.262.352.876.268.149.655.638.85561.3
Michigan66.8529.1828143247721.52.52.5235133.851.681.326.836.329.588.955.653.878.550.838.930.4
New Mexico63.1345.653635315123134146149.147.960.452.557.172.774.164.863.882.650.840.871.3
Connecticut59.3557.5244262921491122137158.872.472.264.372.249.28860.868.374.378.363.795
Wisconsin50.567.0857253717282124356353.857.570.863.656.853.386.550.574.674.356.763.669.6
Maine49.948.984840273851.51.5231.52.55945.365.545.158.965.653.273.457.756.777.872.539.250.4
Texas48.565.56626351425223434.56025.94352.149.758.949.29154.777.986.85061.877.5
Kansas45.6173.6472323619412123125953.874.957.657.261.848.758.660.448.853.559.254.372.9
Arkansas44.6756.3166283026243353356152.255.362.560.350.162.583.459.47063.255.866.555
California44.3375.24752349472123147343.87171.57370.357.890.667.471.781.387.97393.8
North Dakota44.0142.7103854685956.639.586.850.756.262.579.650.273.879.940.853.250
Oklahoma41.2547.4942201223133133255932.568.657.656.459.947.761.857.778.385.454.649.956.7
Virginia4132.79351016344212.53136635.939.381.963.764.37271.670.485.886.158.36462.5
Georgia37.8835.754012258131.53.54.5346343.845.372.958.87360.566.664.863.888.249.660.369.6
Rhode Island35.4878.4875442818421.51.53.52.5256864.771.657.671.763.863.7666969.664.669.679.376.3
Missouri34.7959.6458182325362123236250.340.656.375.458.867.26559.363.382.670.864.352.5
Massachusetts33.4861.245616229392134246734.49280.662.965.35665.563.281.382.658.363.865.4
Alabama30.646.31351374353.5243.5346740.641.56681.975.261.871.26665.486.866.37378.8
West Virginia28.9358.8163271522232322436643.855.256.972.771.358.574.260.765.478.567.968.880
Maryland28.6754.3156192129116434.162.77562.863.263.776.669.574.654.974.258.158.8
New Jersey25.154.95598173503234256544.167.722.251.767.858.58371.575.880.674.662.178.8
Delaware23.5243.93504619313021.522.51.53.55645.65969.45648.746.265.154.366.372.956.24536.7
Pennsylvania20.4259515136322233355867.841.14163.756.54372.65463.879.962.555.850.8
Hawaii19.7967.196439243538222.5324697070.659.770.962.856.371.265.176.3845578.173.8
Ohio19.4470.666171420182133246829.166.67563.162.96070.362.478.382.677.562.490
Louisiana18.2246.94891153344455929.76469.452.858.3406755.568.878.563.859.456.7
Mississippi15.542.14401727453334336147.233.856.353.964.156.872.56266.379.269.667.161.3
Florida14.3460.746441813342134246150.658.75067.476.951.257.350.168.885.454.662.365
Tennessee13.0448.18501110324311.532.51.53.56637.265.173.671.163.351.386.369.968.388.268.85562.9
South Carolina11.9865.486523201662233.5256032.547.561.859.656.856.77059.966.386.167.157.863.8
New York11.4463.45611111144244256155.362.438.968.462.342.552.27249.288.976.751.276.7
Montana8.2852.9154368242121.5221.52.56433.867.471.57171.360.369.357.774.679.252.558.863.8
Alaska4.4864.456937333202123247637.588.269.488.582.781.778.667.573.882.697.577.862.5
South Dakota3.8740.6343444422.51.52.54145647.248.856.346.952.960.779.250.76082.639.64656.3
Illinois3.3655.2755362403234346752.574.172.257.260.548.757.85986.385.466.757.489.2
Kentucky0.0269.81741591334255356758.181.564.669.773.555.773.86880.464.666.351.765
District of Columbia76.1972
showing: 51 rows

Sources