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Ethnic Diversity, Gender, and Corruption: An Experimental Study in Malaysia

The literature on gender and corruption posit that women are perceived as less corrupt than men. Yet these studies are devoid of ethnicity. This is concerning as the scholarship on ethnic politics argues that diversity is associated with higher levels of corruption. The extant literature, however, tends to treat gender and ethnicity as mutually exclusive categories. Yet, we know that a political candidate can be both a woman and an ethnic minority. I apply an intersectionality framework and argue that voter perceptions of corruption towards female candidates is conditional on coethnicity. I test my argument by conducting a conjoint experiment in Malaysia and find that majority group respondents view female minority candidates as just as corrupt as a coethnic man. However, minority respondents view coethnic female candidates as less corrupt. Understanding the relationship between intersectionality and corruption is essential for political parties looking to address calls for greater representation of minorities without having to compromise on the strategic viability of candidates.

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