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Measuring Government Effort to Respect Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights


  • David L. Richards

    (University of Connecticut)

  • K. Chad Clay

    (Binghampton University)


There exist a great number of measurement projects intended to benchmark the human condition as it relates to aspirations of human dignity. One thing these efforts have in common is that they are indicators of outcomes, or records of events. Measuring outcomes is methodologically appropriate and substantively useful for a great variety of purposes. Further, some data projects include measures of legal guarantees, as well, to provide some proxy indicator of a state's intentions – often to be matched with the outcomes indicators to show gaps in law and practice as well as to examine limitations in a state's capacity to enforce law. However, the current attention being paid to economic human rights, or development rights, provides a distinct measurement challenge, as prevailing international law tasks states to do the best possible given extant resources. This is part of the framework of "progressive realization" of rights. Thus, outcomes measures of economic rights, typically based on wealth, are unfair to poorer states, by definition. In this paper, we propose a measurement of state effort to respect economic rights given available resources. We feel this substantively matches the progressive realization framework and alleviates the inequity of existing measures that are almost perfectly correlated with national wealth. As a demonstration, we produce effort scores for 100+ countries for the years 1990, 1995, and 2000. We also provide a simple examination of some possible associates of government effort to respect these rights.

Suggested Citation

  • David L. Richards & K. Chad Clay, 2010. "Measuring Government Effort to Respect Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights," Economic Rights Working Papers 13, University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:ecriwp:13
    Note: Prepared for Presentation at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association. Thanks go to David Cingranelli and Rod Abouharb for their PQLI data, to Lanse Minkler for his valuable comments on an earlier draft, and to Mark Souva for his CIM data. Some of the human rights data used in this paper resulted from a grant from the National Science Foundation (Grant Nos. SES-0647969 and SES-0647916). This implies no endorsement by the National Science Foundation of the findings or opinions herein.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen R. G. Jones & W. Craig Riddell, 1999. "The Measurement of Unemployment: An Empirical Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(1), pages 147-162, January.
    2. Greif, Avner & Milgrom, Paul & Weingast, Barry R, 1994. "Coordination, Commitment, and Enforcement: The Case of the Merchant Guild," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 745-776, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elizabeth Kaletski & Lanse Minkler & Nishith Prakash & Susan Randolph, 2014. "Does Constitutionalizing Economic and Social Rights Promote their Fulfillment?," Economic Rights Working Papers 23, University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute.

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