The Art of Counting the Governed: Census Accuracy, Civil War, and State Presence

Working Papers

Published By

CDDRL Working Papers, Vol. 146

October 2013

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Recent research in both political science and economics has stressed the importance of the state for providing public goods, curbing civil conict, and fostering economic growth. Moreover, it is now widely recognized that areas where the state is contested, limited, or absent can serve as havens for transnational terrorists, drug cartels, human tra_ckers, pirates, or insurgents. Yet, despite the centrality of the state as a variable of interest, quantitative research has been hampered by disagreements over how to conceptualize state strength and how to measure it in a credible way. To address these problems, in this paper we develop and operationalize a new measure of state presence that aims to capture the extent to which state institutions, agents and rules inuence the decision-making of citizens residing within national boundaries. We present an extensive series of validity checks to distinguish our idea of state presence from other related but distinct concepts in the social science literature. Finally, we demonstrate the potential for our new measure to advance quantitive research on questions of substantive importance in political science by deploying it in a statistical analysis to disentangle competing explanations for civil war onset.

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