Thinking Inside the Box:

A Closer Look at Democracy and Human Rights


Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Feryal Cherif

George Downs

Alastair Smith



Welcome to the data site for “Thinking Inside the Box.” 

We have posted an abstract of our research and links for obtaining

the data and do-file used in this project.






Research on human rights consistently points to the importance of democracy in reducing the severity and incidence of personal integrity abuses.  The prescriptive implications of this finding for policymakers interested in state-building have been somewhat limited, however, by a reliance on multidimensional measures of democracy. Consequently, a policymaker emerges from this literature confident that “democracy matters” but unclear about which set(s) of reforms is likely to yield a greater human rights payoff. Using data from the Polity IV Project, we examine what aspects of democracy are most consequential in improving a state’s human rights record.  Analysis of democracy’s dimensions elicits three findings.  First, political participation at the level of multiparty competition appears more significant than other dimensions in reducing human rights abuses.  Second, improvements in a state’s level of democracy short of full democracy do not promote greater respect for integrity rights. Only those states with the highest levels of democracy, not simply those conventionally defined as democratic, are correlated with better human rights practices. Third, accountability appears to be the critical feature that makes full-fledged democracies respect human rights; limited accountability generally retards improvement in human rights.






Our data is compiled from numerous existing projects, but primarily is drawn from The Logic of Political Survival, Polity IV, Penn World Tables and World Development Indicators. We generously thank Steven Poe and Mark Gibney for making their most recent data on personal integrity abuses available to us and also thank Steven Poe, C. Neal Tate and Linda Camp Keith (1999) for providing us with their earlier data.


All of our data and related materials (e.g. do-file) are in Stata 8.2 format. The links below contain the data and do-file, which provides commands for the regression results that are presented in the article as well as other tests that were run for robustness (see footnote 9, International Studies Quarterly (2005) 49, 439-457).  In the do-file, all variables beginning with F or L denote the standard abbreviations for led and lagged variables, respectively.


[Data Link]


[Do-File Link]




The following provides a (partial but near inclusive) list of variables generated in the do-file and classified by type. For more information on the coding of the Polity variables, please visit the Polity IV website at,







AI: A five-point scale that assesses a state’s abuse of personal integrity rights, with five representing the most egregious abuse.  It is coded from the annual reports published by Amnesty International (Poe and Gibney; Poe, Tate Keith 1999).  State practices are coded according to the following rules:


  1. “Countries . . . under secure rule of law, people are not imprisoned for their views, and torture is rare or exceptional . . . political murders are extremely rare.”
  2. “There is a limited amount of imprisonment for nonviolent political activity.  However, few persons are affected, torture and beatings are exceptional . . . political murder is rare.
  3. “There is extensive political imprisonment, or a recent history of such imprisonment.  Execution or other political murders may be common.  Unlimited detention, with or without trial, for political views is accepted.”
  4. “The practices of (Level 3) are expanded to larger numbers.  Murders, disappearances are a common part of life . . . In spite of its generality, on this level terror affects primarily those who interest themselves in politics or ideas.”
  5. “The terrors of (Level 4) have been expanded to the whole population . . . The leaders of these societies place no limits on the means or thoroughness with which they pursue person or ideological goals.”




PARCOMP: Competitiveness of participation; a five-point scale


PARREG: Regulation of participation; a four-point scale


XCONST: Executive constraints; a seven-point scale


XRCOMP: Competitiveness of executive recruitment; a three-point scale.


XROPEN: Openness of executive recruitment; a four-point scale


COM1-COM3: A measure that dichotomizes each level of XRCOMP.


CON1-CON6: A measure that dichotomizes each level of XCONST.


OPEN1-OPEN4: A measure that dichotomizes each level of XROPEN.


PAR1-PAR5: A measure that dichotomizes each level of PARCOMP.


PREG: A measure that dichotomizes each level of PARREG.


PARCOMP2: A normalized measure of PARCOMP.


PARREG2: A normalized measure of PARREG.


XCONST2: A normalized measure of XCONST.


XRCOMP2: A normalized measure of XRCOMP.


XROPEN2: A normalized measure of XROPEN.


COM: A measures that dichotomizes the highest degree of competitiveness of executive recruitment.


CON: A measures that dichotomizes the highest degree of executive constraints.


PAR: A measures that dichotomizes the highest degree of competitiveness of participation.


PREG: A measures that dichotomizes the highest degree of the regulation of participation.


ROPEN: A measures that dichotomizes the highest degree of openness of executive recruitment.


DEMAUT: A 21-point normalized measure of the difference between DEMOC and AUTOC.


DEM80: A country is coded as 1 if its DEMAUT score is .8 or above; 0 otherwise.






CIVILWAR: A country is coded 1 if there is a civil war; 0 otherwise.


INCOMERES: Predicted residuals of all individual and dichotomous Polity measures on real GDP per capita.


IS_WAR: A country is coded 1 if there is an interstate war; 0 otherwise.


LPOP: Population (lagged).






Bueno De Mesquita, Bruce, Alastair Smith, James Morrow and Randolph Siverson. 2003.

The Logic of Political Survival. Cambridge: MIT Press.


Heston, Alan, Robert Summers and Bettina Aten. 2002.  Penn World Table Version 6.1. Center for International Comparisons at the University of Pennsylvania (CICUP).


Jones, Daniel M., Stuart A. Bremer and J. David Singer 1996. "Militarized Interstate Disputes, 1816-1992: Rationale, Coding Rules, and Empirical Patterns." Conflict Management and Peace Science 15(2): 163:213.


Marshall, Monty and Keith Jaggers. 2000. Polity IV: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-1999. College Park: University of Maryland, Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), Integrate Network for Societal Conflict Research Program.


Poe, Steven C. and C. Neal Tate and Linda Camp Keith. 1999. "Repression of the Human Right to Personal Integrity Revisited: A Global Crossnational Study Covering the Years 1976-1993," International Studies Quarterly, 43: 291-315.


Sarkees, Meredith Reid. 2000. "Correlates of War War Datasets: An Update to 1997." Conflict Management and Peace Science. 18(1): 123-144.


Singer, J. David, and Melvin Small. 1972. The Wages of War, 1816-1965: A Statistical Handbook. New York: John Wiley.


Singer, J. David, Stuart Bremer, and John Stuckey. 1972. "Capability Distribution, Uncertainty, and Major Power War, 1820-1965."  in Bruce Russett, ed. Peace, War and Numbers.  Beverly Hills:  Sage.


Small, Melvin, and J. David Singer. 1982. Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars, 1816-1980. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications.


World Bank. 2001. World Development Indicators 2001.  Washington, DC: World Bank.  CD-ROM.