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Can Governance Indicators Make Sense? Towards a New Approach to Sector-Specific Measures of Governance


  • Matt Andrews
  • Roger Hay
  • Jerrett Myers


Governance indicators have come under fire in recent years, especially the World Governance Indicators. Critics present these indicators as atheoretical and biased. Critics of the critics counter that no better alternatives exist. The authors suggest otherwise, arguing that more appropriate “governance” indicators will: have theoretical grounding; focus on specific fields of engagement; emphasize outcomes; and control for key contextual differences in comparing countries. Such constructs can help indicate where countries seem to have governance problems, allowing second-stage analyses of where and what these problems are; they do not directly point to the presence or nature of problems or provide a measure of the governance concept. Under-5 mortality rates adjusted for country income groups are shown as an example of such a measure, and data presented for contextually compared outcomes in this specific field to show where governance seems better and worse. The USA is shown up as relatively weak, whereas a country such as Pakistan seems to have better governance in this sector than other low-income countries. The indicator has its weaknesses and is partly presented as an illustrative example of a new approach, but also allows questions about why governance of this sector might be problematic in certain contexts and easier in others.

Suggested Citation

  • Matt Andrews & Roger Hay & Jerrett Myers, 2010. "Can Governance Indicators Make Sense? Towards a New Approach to Sector-Specific Measures of Governance," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 391-410.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:38:y:2010:i:4:p:391-410
    DOI: 10.1080/13600818.2010.524696

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cynthia Buckley, 2003. "Children at Risk: Infant and Child Health in Central Asia," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 523, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ciccone, Dana Karen & Vian, Taryn & Maurer, Lydia & Bradley, Elizabeth H., 2014. "Linking governance mechanisms to health outcomes: A review of the literature in low- and middle-income countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 86-95.
    2. Matt Andrews & Stuart Russell & Douglas Barrios, 2016. "Governance and the Challenge of Development Through Sports: A Framework for Action," CID Working Papers 323, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    3. Gisselquist, Rachel M., 2013. "Evaluating Governance Indexes: Critical and Less Critical Questions," WIDER Working Paper Series 068, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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