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Governance Indicators Can Make Sense: Under-Five Mortality Rates Are an Example

By Matt Andrews, Roger Hay and Jerrett Myers


Governance indicators have come under fire in recent years, especially the World Governance Indicators (WGIs). Critics present these indicators as a-theoretical and biased. Critics of the critics counter that no better alternatives exist. We suggest otherwise, arguing that more appropriate 'governance' indicators will (i) have theoretical grounding, (ii) focus on specific fields of engagement, (iii) emphasize outcomes, and (iv) control for key contextual differences in comparing countries. Such measures can help indicate where countries seem to have governance problems, allowing second stage analyses of what these problems are. We present under national five mortality rates adjusted for country income groups as an example of such measure, presenting data for contextually controlled outcomes in this specific field to show where governance seems better and worse. The United States is shown up as relatively weak, whereas a country like Pakistan seems to have better governance in this sector than other low income countries. The indicator allows questions about why governance of this sector might be problematic in certain contexts and easier in others.

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