Every year, the independent anti-corruption organization Transparency International releases its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report, an analysis of misconduct in the public sector of regions around the world. According to the most recent CPI report, the United States ranked 23rd out of 180 countries examined. And while the U.S. has consistently ranked far better in comparison to most parts of the world, the CPI indicates that since 2015, corruption has been steadily increasing across the country. With that in mind, Best Life set out to determine the most corrupt state in America.

To find out where corruption is the biggest problem in America, we used data from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine the number of public corruption convictions per 10,000 residents in all 50 states. The data accounts for “violations of federal law in bribery, extortion, police brutality, theft of government property, and other cases involving breach of the public trust,” according to the DOJ.

We also included data on the number of reported violations by doctors and other healthcare providers filed between 1990 and 2020, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank. We included both the number of adverse action reports (legally required to be filed when a doctor or other healthcare practitioner is reprimanded in any number of ways—from being suspended to having their license revoked—due to some form of misconduct or professional incompetence), as well as medical malpractice payment reports (legally required to be filed when a healthcare organization has issued a payment to a patient who was caused physical harm as result of a doctor’s negligence).

Then, we referred to the Coalition for Integrity’s most recent States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials report, known as the S.W.A.M.P. index. Each state’s laws are evaluated on their scope and establishment of ethics agencies and, most importantly, how effective those agencies actually are. Transparency exercised by public officials accepting gifts is an example of the factors that contribute to each state’s score on the index’s 100-point scale, where a score of 0 indicates the highest level of corruption possible.

Finally, we looked at the State Integrity Investigation conducted by The Center for Public Integrity. This is another in-depth assessment of accountability and transparency at the state level. The integrity score is based on 245 questions that delve into key indicators such as public access to information, electoral oversight, internal auditing, state pension fund management, ethics enforcement agencies, and judicial accountability. Again, higher scores mean more integrity, while lower ones equal less.

We then gave each one of these five metrics a weighted value and ran them through our exclusive algorithm to calculate how each state scored on our Corruption Index, where 100 is the most corrupt score a state can receive, and 0 is the least. Read on to discover the most corrupt state in America and find out where yours falls in the mix. And for more on unsavory behavior around the country, This Is the Most Dishonest State in America.


#2 Utah
city skyline of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah at dusk

Public corruption convictions per 10,000 residents: 48

Adverse action reports filed from 1990 to 2020: 7,699

Medical malpractice reports filed from 1990 to 2020: 3,673

S.W.A.M.P. index score: 31 out of 100

State integrity score: 62 out of 100

Corruption Index Score94.90