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The entire world must contend with corruption. It costs honest citizens thousands of dollars per year and saps trust in public and private institutions.
We’ve all experienced corruption on at least a small scale at some point in our lives, but actually measuring it is difficult. Recently, Fortune covered a study by two public policy researchers—Cheol Liu of the City University of Hong Kong and John L. Mikesell of Indiana University—who looked the rate at which public employees in each of the 50 U.S. states had been convicted on federal corruption charges from 1976 to 2008 to determine which state was the most corrupt in the union.
Their conclusion? Mississippi, The Hospitality State, has not been all that hospitable to its citizens over the past 30-plus years, according to the study. The state had the highest ratio of public workers who were censured for misuse of public funds and other charges.
The researchers looked at the hard numbers—federal convictions—to control for differences in spending on law enforcement and the rigor of state corruption laws.
While these numbers don’t lie, Mississippi officials were none too pleased to top this list. As the state’s top corruption fighter, Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering argued in an interview with Fortune that the study relied on old data and didn’t take into account the state’s anti-corruption efforts.
“This is dated material that goes back to 1976 until 2008, the year I was sworn into office,” said Pickering.
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