Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-2pzkn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-30T14:23:14.578Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Are Human Rights Practices Improving?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2018

Binghamton University
Binghamton University
David Cingranelli is a Professor of Political Science, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Vestal Parkway East, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000, USA (
Mikhail Filippov is an Associate Professor of Political Science, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Vestal Parkway East, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000, USA (


Has government protection of human rights improved? The answer to this and many other research questions is strongly affected by the assumptions we make and the modeling strategy we choose as the basis for creating human rights country scores. Fariss (2014) introduced a statistical model that produced latent scores showing an improving trend in human rights. Consistent with his stringent assumptions, his statistical model heavily weighted rare incidents of mass killings such as genocide, while discounting indicators of lesser and more common violations such as torture and political imprisonment. We replicated his analysis, replacing the actual values of all indicators of lesser human rights violations with randomly generated data, and obtained an identical improving trend. However, when we replicated the analysis, relaxing his assumptions by allowing all indicators to potentially have a similar effect on the latent scores, we find no human rights improvement.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


The authors thank Rodwan Abouharb, Sabine Carey, David Davis, Peter Haschke, Neil Mitchell, and David Richards for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



Bolck, Annabel, Croon, Marcel, and Hagenaars, Jacques. 2004. “Estimating Latent Structure Models with Categorical Variables.” Political Analysis 12 (1): 327.Google Scholar
Cingranelli, David, and Filippov, Mikhail. 2018. “Problems of Model Specification and Improper Data Extrapolation.” British Journal of Political Science 48 (1): 273–74.Google Scholar
Cingranelli, David, and Richards, David. 2010. “The Cingranelli and Richards (CIRI) Human Rights Data Project.” Human Rights Quarterly 32 (2): 401–24.Google Scholar
Clark, Ann Marie, and Sikkink, Kathryn. 2013. “Information Effects and Human Rights Data.” Human Rights Quarterly 35 (3): 539–68.Google Scholar
Dahl, Robert. 1961. Who Governs. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Fariss, Christopher. 2014. “Respect for Human Rights Has Improved over Time: Modeling the Changing Standard of Accountability.” American Political Science Review 108 (2): 297318.Google Scholar
Fariss, Christopher. 2018. “The Changing Standard of Accountability and the Positive Relationship Between Human Rights Treaty Ratification and Compliance.” British Journal of Political Science 48 (1): 239–71.Google Scholar
Gutiérrez-Sanín, Francisco, and Wood, Elizabeth. 2017. “What Should We Mean by ‘Pattern of Political Violence’?Perspectives on Politics 15 (1): 2041.Google Scholar
Hafner-Burton, Emily, and Ron, Jaames. 2009. “Seeing Double: Human Rights Impact through Qualitative and Quantitative Eyes.” World Politics 61 (2): 360401.Google Scholar
Harff, Barbara, and Gurr, Ted Robert. 1988. “Toward Empirical Theory of Genocides and Politicides.” International Studies Quarterly 32 (3): 5971.Google Scholar
Haschke, Peter, and Gibney, Mark. 2017. “Are Global Human Rights Conditions Static or Improving.” In Peace and Conflict, eds. Backer, David, Bhavnani, Ravi, and Huth, Paul. New York: Routledge Press, 8797.Google Scholar
Hill, Daniel. 2016. “Democracy and the Concept of Personal Integrity Rights.” Journal of Politics 78 (3): 822–35.Google Scholar
Hunter, Floyd. 1953. Community Power Structure. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
Martin, Andrew, and Quinn, Kevin. 2002. “Dynamic Ideal Point Estimation Via Markov Chain Monte Carlo for the US Supreme Court, 1953–1999.” Political Analysis 10 (2): 134–53.Google Scholar
Poe, Steven, and Tate, Neal. 1994. “Repression of Human Rights to Personal Integrity in the 1980s.” American Political Science Review 88 (4): 853–72.Google Scholar
Richards, David. 2016. “The Myth of Information Effects in Human Rights Data.” Human Rights Quarterly 38 (1): 477–92.Google Scholar
Rummel, Rudolph. 1994. Death by Government. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press.Google Scholar
Schnakenberg, Keith, and Fariss, Christopher. 2014. “Dynamic Patterns of Human Rights Practices.” Political Science Research and Methods 2 (1): 131.Google Scholar
Wang, Xiaojing, Berger, James, and Burdick, Donald. 2013. “Bayesian Analysis of Dynamic Item Response Models in Educational Testing.” The Annals of Applied Statistics 7 (1): 126–53.Google Scholar
Wood, Reed, and Gibney, Mark. 2010. “The Political Terror Scale (PTS): A Re-Introduction and a Comparison to CIRI.” Human Rights Quarterly 32 (2): 367400.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Cingranelli and Filippov Dataset

Supplementary material: PDF

Cingranelli and Filippov supplementary material

Online Appendix

Download Cingranelli and Filippov supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 1.6 MB
Submit a response

Comments Test

No Comments Test have been published for this article.