The Corruption-Incompetence Nexus: Analysis of Corrupt US Mayors

Barry Bozeman, Jiwon Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper seeks to develop some preliminary ideas about the relation of corruption and incompetence, two different but perhaps related instances of political and administrative failure. We pose a corruption-competence nexus and suggest that corruption and incompetence are related in predictable ways. Indeed, in extreme cases of incompetence, incompetence often enables corruption due to a variety of factors including the inability to monitor corruption or to select quality advisors. We further suggest that a variety of factors mitigate the relation of incompetence and corruption, including level of political authority and impact, size of political and business networks, and availability of professionalized and empowered public service. To further examine the corruption-incompetence nexus, we use simple typology (e.g., corrupt-competent or corrupt-incompetent) to help organize and, to some extent, explain the forms of relationship between incompetence and corruption in the organizational setting. Four cases of U.S. mayors’ performance are evaluated to better understand the propositions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Policy Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Corruption
  • Executive officials
  • Incompetence
  • Political incompetence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration


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