Predicting and explaining corruption across countries: A machine learning approach

Marcio Salles Melo Lima, Dursun Delen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


In the era of Big Data, Analytics, and Data Science, corruption is still ubiquitous and is perceived as one of the major challenges of modern societies. A large body of academic studies has attempted to identify and explain the potential causes and consequences of corruption, at varying levels of granularity, mostly through theoretical lenses by using correlations and regression-based statistical analyses. The present study approaches the phenomenon from the predictive analytics perspective by employing contemporary machine learning techniques to discover the most important corruption perception predictors based on enriched/enhanced nonlinear models with a high level of predictive accuracy. Specifically, within the multiclass classification modeling setting that is employed herein, the Random Forest (an ensemble-type machine learning algorithm) is found to be the most accurate prediction/classification model, followed by Support Vector Machines and Artificial Neural Networks. From the practical standpoint, the enhanced predictive power of machine learning algorithms coupled with a multi-source database revealed the most relevant corruption-related information, contributing to the related body of knowledge, generating actionable insights for administrator, scholars, citizens, and politicians. The variable importance results indicated that government integrity, property rights, judicial effectiveness, and education index are the most influential factors in defining the corruption level of significance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101407
JournalGovernment Information Quarterly
Issue number1
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Corruption perception
  • Government integrity
  • Machine learning
  • Predictive modeling
  • Random forest
  • Social development
  • Society policies and regulations


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