The Social Construction of Successful Market Reforms
The transition from socialism to capitalism has spawned a large literature on comparative policy reforms. While many sociologists using qualitative data have concluded that neo-liberal reforms led to negative outcomes, a large body of cross-national literature, mostly from economics and political science, claims that more neo-liberal reforms produced better economic and political outcomes. These latter studies almost all use measures of policy reform constructed by economists at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). We show, using the EBRD’s own data, that their indices of progress in market reforms are biased in the direction of positive growth. That is, the EBRD’s bureaucracy over-codes the more successful countries. When one accounts for this bias, the relationship between the EBRD’s transition indicators and growth significantly weakens or disappears. These findings have implications for social scientific research using statistics constructed by international organizations, like the World Bank and the IMF.
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