Transparency is often viewed as crucial to government accountability, but its measurement remains elusive. This concept encompasses many dimensions, which have distinct effects. In this article, we focus on a specific dimension of transparency: governments' collection and dissemination of aggregate data. We construct a measure of this aspect of transparency, using an item response model that treats transparency as a latent predictor of the reporting of data to the World Bank's World Development Indicators. The resultant index covers 125 countries from 1980 to 2010. Unlike some alternatives (e.g., Freedom House), our measure—the HRV index—is based on objective criteria rather than subjective expert judgments. Unlike newspaper circulation numbers, HRV reflects the dissemination of credible content—in that it has survived the World Bank's quality control assessment. In a validation exercise, we find that our measure outperforms newspaper circulation as a predictor of Law and Order and Bureaucratic Quality as measured by the ICRG, particularly in autocracies. It performs as well as newspaper circulation in predicting corruption. These findings suggest that data dissemination is a distinct, and politically relevant, form of transparency.
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