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Dynamic Patterns of Human Rights Practices*

  • Keith E. Schnakenberg and Christopher J. Fariss


The science of human rights requires valid comparisons of repression levels across time and space. Though extensive data collection efforts have made such comparisons possible in principle, statistical measures based on simple additive scales made them rare in practice. This article uses a dynamic measurement model that contrasts with current approaches by (1) accounting for the fact that human rights indicators vary in the level of information they provide about the latent level of repression, (2) allowing realistic descriptions of measurement uncertainty in the form of credible intervals and (3) providing a theoretical motivation for modeling temporal dependence in human rights levels. It presents several techniques, which demonstrate that the dynamic ordinal item-response theory model outperforms its static counterpart.



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*Keith Schnakenberg is a graduate student in the Department of Political Science at Washington University, St. Louis ( Christopher Fariss is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University ( We thank Chad Clay, Jesse Driscoll, James Fowler, Jeff Gill, Miles Kahler, David Lake, Yon Lupu, Will Moore, Amanda Murdie, David Richards, Guillermo Rosas and Sebastian Saiegh for helpful comments. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2012 meeting of the Midwestern Political Science Association, the 2012 meeting of the International Studies Association, the 2011 meeting of the American Political Science Association and the 2010 meeting of the Southern Political Science Association. We would also like to acknowledge the Southern Political Science Association for travel grants. The data and code used in this paper and the latent variable estimates from the dynamic models are publicly available at Both authors contributed to the study design, data collection, analysis and preparation of the manuscript.



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Dynamic Patterns of Human Rights Practices*

  • Keith E. Schnakenberg and Christopher J. Fariss


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