The state has been “brought back in” and today state capacity is one of the most important research topics in a variety of social science subfields. Although conceptual, theoretical, and empirical literature on the topic has been flourishing for a while, issues related to the measurement of state capacity have attracted less interest in the scholarly debate for now. This is not to say that researchers have not recognised some of the problems related to the measurement of state capacity; quite the opposite. Nevertheless, measurement issues are seldom addressed in detail in studies on the topic. The main aim of my dissertation is to fill this gap in literature by addressing some of the most pressing questions on the measurement of state capacity. In Chapter I, I provide a review of definitions and measures of state capacity. This introductory chapter provides a first look at the concept of state capacity and shows some of the consistencies and inconsistencies related to the definition as well as the measures of state capacity. The purpose of Chapter I is illustrative rather than exhaustive. In Chapter II, I select some of the most established measures of state capacity for further investigation. These measures are systematically compared and evaluated with several statistical tools, but not only. I point out some interesting differences and weaknesses in the content and statistical properties of the measures. Even if I find that all the measures are highly convergent among one another, a battery of replicated studies shows that their interchangeability is weak. In other words, different measures of state capacity can lead to completely different interpretations. The primary cause of these somewhat counterpoising findings lies in divergent understandings of the level of state capacity in some countries. Since no measure of state capacity emerges as the best one in absolute terms, researchers are advised to select a measure that closely represents their theory or alternatively to test the robustness of their findings with multiple measures. In Chapter III, I show that one way to increase our knowledge on state capacity is to dig deeper both in terms of theory and measures. I argue that the literature on the state-democracy nexus has remained largely inconclusive because of conceptual and measurement issues related to state capacity (as well as democracy). One way to push forward the research agenda on the topic is to shift the analysis to more specific aspects of the state-democracy relationship. Through a comparative statistical analysis of the relationship between impartial public officials and civic participation – two core attributes of state capacity and democracy – I provide new empirical evidence on the state-democracy nexus across countries and over time. Besides convincingly supporting the hypothesised positive effect of civic participation on impartial public officials, the findings of Chapter III indicate indeed that the research agenda on state capacity can be pushed forward by disaggregating the concept. A vibrant civic society seems to be an important prerequisite of impartial bureaucracies, but overly broad approaches on the state-democracy nexus fail to capture this “nuance”. In Chapter IV, I take the reasonable assumption that the need to conduct research on state capacity as a whole is not going to disappear. General level theories require general level measures. Scholars have plenty of measurements to choose from, but most of them were not created to capture state capacity: ill-suited measures stand in the way of accumulating knowledge on the topic. In Chapter IV, I develop and present a novel cross-national measure of state capacity to tackle the problem. A set of validity tests show persuasively that the new measure contributes to the literature on state capacity and is a useful tool to make progress on the research agenda on the topic. Chapter IV provides also novel statistical information on the key dimensions of state capacity. In Chapter V, I sum up the main findings, discuss their potential implications for policymakers, and identify possible avenues for future research on state capacity.

On the measurement of state capacity: quantitative questions and conceptual considerations / Vaccaro, Andrea. - (2021 Oct 18).

On the measurement of state capacity: quantitative questions and conceptual considerations

VACCARO, Andrea
2021-10-18

Abstract

The state has been “brought back in” and today state capacity is one of the most important research topics in a variety of social science subfields. Although conceptual, theoretical, and empirical literature on the topic has been flourishing for a while, issues related to the measurement of state capacity have attracted less interest in the scholarly debate for now. This is not to say that researchers have not recognised some of the problems related to the measurement of state capacity; quite the opposite. Nevertheless, measurement issues are seldom addressed in detail in studies on the topic. The main aim of my dissertation is to fill this gap in literature by addressing some of the most pressing questions on the measurement of state capacity. In Chapter I, I provide a review of definitions and measures of state capacity. This introductory chapter provides a first look at the concept of state capacity and shows some of the consistencies and inconsistencies related to the definition as well as the measures of state capacity. The purpose of Chapter I is illustrative rather than exhaustive. In Chapter II, I select some of the most established measures of state capacity for further investigation. These measures are systematically compared and evaluated with several statistical tools, but not only. I point out some interesting differences and weaknesses in the content and statistical properties of the measures. Even if I find that all the measures are highly convergent among one another, a battery of replicated studies shows that their interchangeability is weak. In other words, different measures of state capacity can lead to completely different interpretations. The primary cause of these somewhat counterpoising findings lies in divergent understandings of the level of state capacity in some countries. Since no measure of state capacity emerges as the best one in absolute terms, researchers are advised to select a measure that closely represents their theory or alternatively to test the robustness of their findings with multiple measures. In Chapter III, I show that one way to increase our knowledge on state capacity is to dig deeper both in terms of theory and measures. I argue that the literature on the state-democracy nexus has remained largely inconclusive because of conceptual and measurement issues related to state capacity (as well as democracy). One way to push forward the research agenda on the topic is to shift the analysis to more specific aspects of the state-democracy relationship. Through a comparative statistical analysis of the relationship between impartial public officials and civic participation – two core attributes of state capacity and democracy – I provide new empirical evidence on the state-democracy nexus across countries and over time. Besides convincingly supporting the hypothesised positive effect of civic participation on impartial public officials, the findings of Chapter III indicate indeed that the research agenda on state capacity can be pushed forward by disaggregating the concept. A vibrant civic society seems to be an important prerequisite of impartial bureaucracies, but overly broad approaches on the state-democracy nexus fail to capture this “nuance”. In Chapter IV, I take the reasonable assumption that the need to conduct research on state capacity as a whole is not going to disappear. General level theories require general level measures. Scholars have plenty of measurements to choose from, but most of them were not created to capture state capacity: ill-suited measures stand in the way of accumulating knowledge on the topic. In Chapter IV, I develop and present a novel cross-national measure of state capacity to tackle the problem. A set of validity tests show persuasively that the new measure contributes to the literature on state capacity and is a useful tool to make progress on the research agenda on the topic. Chapter IV provides also novel statistical information on the key dimensions of state capacity. In Chapter V, I sum up the main findings, discuss their potential implications for policymakers, and identify possible avenues for future research on state capacity.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11573/1624078
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