Measuring political democracy: Case expertise, data adequacy, and Central America

Kirk Bowman*, Fabrice Lehoucq, James Mahoney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Recent writings concerning measurement of political democracy offer sophisticated discussions of problems of conceptualization, operationalization, and aggregation. Yet they have less to say about the error that derives from the use of inaccurate, partial, or misleading data sources. Drawing on evidence from five Central American countries, the authors show this data-induced measurement error compromises the validity of the principal, long-term cross-national scales of democracy. They call for an approach to index construction that relies on case expertise and use of a wide range of data sources, and they employ this approach in developing an index of political democracy for the Central American countries during the 20th century. The authors' index draws on a comprehensive set of secondary and primary sources as it rigorously pursues standards of conceptualization, operationalization, and aggregation. The index's value is illustrated by showing how it suggests new lines of research in the field of Central American politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)939-970
Number of pages32
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Central America
  • Data sources
  • Democracy
  • Measurement
  • Regime indices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring political democracy: Case expertise, data adequacy, and Central America'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this