Corruption in post-Soviet countries associated with overweight Ministers

A French researcher found a correlation between the average body mass index of Ministers of the 15 post-Soviet States and their level of corruption: in countries with the largest number of Ministers the level of corruption (at least for 2017) was higher. To do this, scientists estimated the composition of Ministers through the analysis of their photos by the neural network and then compared with various estimates of the level of corruption in each country. Interestingly, the body mass index of Ministers also weakly negatively correlated with the average body mass index of the inhabitants of the country: in other words, in the countries with the largest number of Ministers (and the basis of calculation, with the highest level of corruption), citizens were thinner. Article published in the journal Economics of Transition and Institutional Change.

The level of corruption in a particular country to measure is quite difficult — not only due to the fact that it is necessary to assess how the management of the state system, and, for example, in major banks and companies (i.e. collect and analyze a lot of information), but also due to the fact that this figure, in General, quite subjective. For example, the corruption perception Index in all countries annually publishes the Transparency International organization, which conducts independent surveys among experts in the field of Finance and advocacy: this figure, of course, can be called objective (still we are talking about a certain expertise).

The problem is that any assessment of third-party observers (even if they are experts) may be subject to cognitive biases: for example, the assessment may influence illusory correlation — the attempt to link two events based on their own judgement, not objectivity. Simply put, the opinion of both experts and ordinary people about the corruption of individuals can be vulnerable to stereotypes.

Of course, it is undeniable that sometimes such stereotypical thinking is correct, but the situation may be opposite. As example, a study conducted two years ago by Chinese scholars: then they studiedhow with corrupt politicians in high positions related to the importation of expensive Swiss watches. The link between corruption and expensive accessories in fact was, but only in mainland China from 1993 to 2012-2013: after this (scientists have linked this with the development of the Internet) the connection was lost. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States such links failed to be detected at all.

It is possible to assume that similar stereotypes still possible to extract some objective measures — but it is the connection between the stereotype and the dependent variable still needs to be checked. Pavlo Blavatsky (Pavlo Blavatskyy) of business School in Montpellier decided to assess how corruption is associated with a body mass index policy. The researcher focused on 299 the Ministers in 2017 in 15 countries of the former Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova,, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Estonia.

The body mass index of Ministers Blavatsky was assessed by using a computer vision algorithm, presented in 2017: it is based on convolutional neural networks. Of the 299 of Ministers 96 the algorithm found a high degree of obesity (body mass index 35 to 40). As an indicator of corruption Blavatsky used five different indices from Transparency International, the Index control of corruption world Bank corruption index European centre of anti-corruption and state-building, the Index of absence of corruption International Institute for democracy and facilitate elections, as well as the index of the Basel Institute.

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