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Are Human Rights Practices Improving?



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.


Corresponding author

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 (


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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:



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American Political Science Review
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Supplementary materials

Cingranelli and Filippov Dataset

Supplementary materials

Cingranelli and Filippov supplementary material
Online Appendix

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