Conceptualization and Measurement of Democracy (CMD)

The project aims to contribute to our understanding of democracy as a concept, and to the measurement of democracy and its sub-components. It also investigates how democracy affects economic growth, inequality, conflict, and the stability of political institutions and regimes.

Page contents

About the project | Objectives | Outcomes | Affiliated researchers | Publications:                             Journal articlesBooksBook chaptersMA theses | Data | Financing | Cooperation

About the project

The project started up in 2011 and ran up to 2014. The project focused on the conceptualization and measurement of democracy and its sub-components, and on the effects of democracy on economic growth, inequality, conflict and political stability. A short summary of project follows below.

Neither theoretical nor empirical studies have sufficiently taken into account democracy’s multi-dimensionality, and previous studies on democracy’s effects have mostly relied on problematic aggregate measures. This project attempted to theoretically rephrase and empirically reanalyze research questions concerning the relationship between components of democracy on the one hand and growth, inequality, peace, and stability of political institutions on the other by using specific, relevant indicators and the project’s novel aggregated indices of democracy.


Neither theoretical nor empirical studies have sufficiently taken into account democracy’s multi-dimensionality, and previous studies on democracy’s effects have mostly relied on problematic aggregate measures. This project’s objective is to (re-)assess how democracy affects four important variables; namely economic growth, conflict, inequality, and the stability and consolidation of democratic institutions by using data on detailed indicators of political institutions as well as new indices of democracy. In this regard, another objective of the project is to contribute to the literatures on how to conceptualize democracy, and to the literature on how to validly measure democracy, democracy’s sub-components, and more specific institutional structures.

Conceptualization, data collection, and measurement

The project will compile and supplement existing indicators of democracy and review how indicators theoretically relate to various conceptualizations of democracy. Moreover the project will develop a set of formulae for aggregation of indicators into indices of democracy, and empirically analyze their validity.

The project will address these points by specifying in detail the salient sub-components/indicators of various conceptualizations of democracy, identify aggregation procedures, and explore the validity of new proposed aggregate measures. The project will also review existing aggregate democracy measures, and examine their validity based on the conceptual work and discussions and utilization of proper aggregation methods.

The set of indicators will be broad in order to allow for the construction of aggregates based on a range of conceptualizations. The project includes a considerable data collection effort, both to expand data coverage on existing indicators and to collect data on new indicators.

The effects of democracy on growth, conflict, inequality, and political stability

The project will use both disaggregated indicators and the new aggregate measures to reanalyze questions on how democracy affects economic growth, inequality, conflict and stability. More precise specifications of which institutional components of democracy are salient for an outcome will help developing and applying more precise theoretical arguments and allow for better empirical tests.

Economic growth: The literature on democracy’s effect on economic growth mostly employs aggregate democracy measures, and empirical studies differ considerably regarding the net effect. However, some relatively recent contributions point to the likely importance of more particular aspects of democracy, like freedom of speech and political participation rights, for growth-enhancing policies. The project will focus on investigating such more disaggregated effects.

Conflict: Studies of democracy and interstate conflict show a clear relationship between democracy and peace. For internal conflict the relationship is less clear, but likely curvi-linear. Moreover, exactly which combinations of democratic and non-democratic components that increase conflict risk is unclear, as most studies use the highly aggregated Polity index of democracy. A more detailed exploration of the effects of democracy’s sub-components on conflict risk will be pursued in this project.

Inequality: The empirical literature finds no clear and robust effect of democratic institutions on income inequality. Statistical studies on the topic tend to mainly use aggregate indices of democracy. Moreover, these studies tend to focus exclusively on vertical (inter-individual) inequality. Yet, horizontal inequalities, i.e. systematic inequalities between ethnic-, religious- or geographical groups, may be more important in several regards. The project will elaborate on the effects of democracy on horizontal inequality, and how institutional factors affect the linkages between horizontal inequality and conflict.

Stability: Several studies indicate that democracies are more stable than autocracies, at least in high-income countries. But, these studies tend to use minimalist definitions of democracy. Some studies have pointed to the importance of consistency across sub-components of political regimes. Moreover, more detailed constitutional components, like constitutional amendment procedures, may affect institutional stability. The project aims at investigating the importance of such more nuanced institutional and regime characterstics for stability.

Affiliated researchers
Journal articles

Basedau, Matthias; Birte Pfeier; & Johannes Vullers (2016). Bad Religion? Religion, Collective Action and the Onset of Armed Conflict in Developing CountriesJournal of Conflict Resolution 60(2): 226-255.

Buhaug, Halvard; Jonas Nordkvelle; Thomas Bernauer; Tobias Bohmelt; Michael Brzoska; Joshua W. Busby; Antonio Ciccone; Hanne Fjelde; Erik Gartzke; Nils Petter Gleditsch; Jack A. Goldstone; Håavard Hegre; Helge Holtermann; Vally Koubi; Jasmin S. A. Link; P. Michael Link; Paivi Lujala; John O’Loughlin; Clionadh Raleigh; Jurgen Scheran; Janpeter Schilling; Todd G. Smith; Ole Magnus Theisen; Richard S. J. Tol; Henrik Urdal; & Nina von Uexkull (2014). One Effect to Rule Them All? A Comment on Climate and Conflict. Climatic Change 127(3-4): 391-397.

Dahl, Marianne; & Høyland, Bjørn (2012). Peace on Quicksand? Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Economic Growth and Post-Conflict Risks. Journal of Peace Research 49(3): 423-429.

Fjelde, Hanne; & Håvard Hegre (2014). Political Corruption and Institutional StabilityStudies in Comparative International Development 49(3): 267-299.

Fjelde, Hanne; & Kristine Höglund (forthcoming). Electoral Institutions and Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. British Journal of Political Science, DOI: 10.1017/S0007123414000179.

Hegre, Håvard (2014). Democracy and Armed Conflict. Journal of Peace Research 51(2): 159-172. Pre-publication version.

Hegre, Håvard; & Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv (2015). Governance and Conflict Relapse. Journal of Conflict Resolution 59(6): 984-1016. Pre-publication version.

Høyland, Bjørn; & Hansen, Vibeke Wøien (2014). Issue-Specific Policy-Positions and Voting in the Council. European Union Politics 15(1): 59-81.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2011). I’ll Mind My Own Business if You Mind Yours: The OAU and the African Peace. Dynamiques Internationales. Republished at e-International Relations.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2011). Security Threats, Enemy-Contingent Policies and Economic Development in Dictatorships. International Interactions 37(4): 414-40.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2012). Democracy and Economic Growth: A Survey of Arguments and Results. International Area Studies Review 15(4): 393-415.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2013). Democracy, State Capacity and Economic Growth. World Development 43: 1-18.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2014). Income Growth and Revolutions. Social Science Quarterly 95(4): 920-937.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik; & Fjelde, Hanne (2013). Property Rights in Dictatorships: Kings Protect Property Better than Generals or Party Bosses. Contemporary Politics 19(1): 94-114.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik; & Håvard Mokleiv Nygard (2015). Institutional Characteristics and Regime Survival: Why Are Semi-Democracies Less Durable Than Autocracies and Democracies? American Journal of Political Science 59(3): 656-670.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik; & Tore Wig (2015). Government Turnover and the Effects of Regime Type: How Requiring Alternation in Power Biases against the Estimated Economic Benefits of Democracy. Comparative Political Studies 48(7): 882-914.

Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; & Weintraub, Michael (2015). Bargaining between Rebel Groups and the Outside Option of Violence. Terrorism and Political Violence 27(3): 557-580.

Strand, Håvard (2011). Deconstructing Civil War: A Rejoinder. Security Dialogue 42(3): 297-302.


Gates, Scott; & Kaushik Roy (2014). Unconventional Warfare in South Asia. Shadow Warriors and Counterinsurgency. Farnham: Ashgate.

Gates, Scott; & Kaushik Roy (eds.) (2014). War and State-Building in Afghanistan: From Mughals to Americans. London: Bloomsbury.

Hveem, Helge; & Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2012). Governance and Knowledge: The Politics of Foreign Investment, Technology and Ideas. London: Routledge.

Book chapters

Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede; & Håvard Hegre (2014). ‘Regime Type and Political Transition in Civil War’, in Newman, Edward & DeRouen, Karl (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Civil Wars. London: Routledge.

Hegre, Håvard; & Idunn Kristiansen (2016). ‘Global, State, and Individual Security in Quantitative Conflict Research’, in Schlag, Gabi; Junk, Julian; & Daase, Christopher (eds.), Transformations of Security Studies: Dialogues, Diversity and Discipline. New York: Routledge.

Hveem, Helge; & Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2012). ‘Introduction: Politics and the Creation and Diffusion of Knowledge’, in Hveem, Helge; & Knutsen, Carl Henrik (eds.), Governance and Knowledge: The Politics of Foreign Investment, Technology and Ideas. London: Routledge.

Hveem, Helge; Rygh, Asmund; & Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2012). ‘State Ownership and Political Risks for Firms Investing Abroad’, in Eliassen, Kjell A. (eds.), Business and Politics in a New Global Order. Oslo: Gyldendal.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2012). ‘Democracy, Dictatorship, and Technological Change’, in Hveem, Helge; & Knutsen, Carl Henrik (eds.), Governance and Knowledge: The Politics of Foreign Investment, Technology and Ideas. London: Routledge.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2013). ‘Measuring Democracy’, in Michalos, Alex C. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life Research. Heidelberg: Springer.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2014). ‘Hvor demokratisk er det norske demokratiet? En internasjonal sammenligning’, in Baldersheim, Harald; & Østerud, Øyvind  (eds.), Det norske demokratiet i det 21. århundre. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik (2014). ‘Demokrati og økonomisk vekst’, in Malnes, Raino; & Thorsen, Dag Einar (eds.), Demokratiet – historien og ideene. Oslo: Dreyer.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik; & Thorsen, Dag Einar (2014). ‘Diktaturet – Demokratiets motsats?’, in Malnes, Raino; & Thorsen, Dag Einar (eds.), Demokratiet – historien og ideene. Oslo: Dreyer.

Knutsen, Carl Henrik; & Fjelde, Hanne (forthcoming). ‘Property Rights in Dictatorships: Kings Protect Property Better than Generals or Party Bosses’; republished version of article in Contemporary Politics 19(1); in Croissant, Aurel; & Thompson, Steven (eds.), Title not yet ready. London: Routledge.

Rasch, Bjørn Erik (2012). ‘Débats législatifs et délibération démocratique dans les systèmes parlementaires’, in de Galembert, Claire; Rozenberg, Olivier; & Vigour, Cécile (eds.), Faire parler le Parlement. Paris: LGDJ.

Wig, Tore (2015). ‘Political Institutions and Internal Armed Conflict: A Review’, in Jakobsen, Tor-Georg (eds.), War: An Introduction to Theories and Research on Collective Violence. Nova Scientic Publishers.

Østby, Gudrun; & Strand, Håvard (2013). ‘Horizontal Inequalities and Internal Conflict: The Impact of Regime Type and Political Leadership Regulation’, in Kelechi, Kalu; Uzodike, Ufo Okeke; & Kraybill, Dave (eds.), Territoriality, Citizenship, and Peacebuilding: Perspectives on Challenges to Peace in Africa. Pietermarizburg: Adonis & Abbey.

MA theses

Alveng, Kristin (2013). Recognition Rates for Refugees in Scandinavia. What explains the difference? Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Berg, Lars Petter (2013). Inequality, Collective Action and Democratic Transition. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Bjella, Marie (2012). Democracy and Foreign Aid. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Busch, Rune (2012). Disasters by Design: A Disaggregated Study of the Ethnic and Institutional Determinants of Natural Disaster Vulnerability. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Dahlum, Sirianne (2012). Democracy by Demand? Reinvestigating the Effect of Mass Values on Political Institutions. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Flaten, Ranveig Drolsum (2012). Economic Inequality, Democratization and Civil Conflict: Measuring the Long-Run Effects. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Heggedal, Katrine Andrea (2013). Proportional Election Systems and Ethnic Armed Conflict: An Empirical Investigation. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Hillesund, Solveig (2013). A Dangerous Discrepancy: Testing the Micro Dynamics of Opportunity and Grievance on Palestinian Support for Armed Resistance. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Hindrum, Johan Martin Skaugrud (2012). Massemobilisering og regimeendring: Påvirker evnen til å løse kollektive handlingsproblemer sannsynligheten for demokratisering og demokratisk overlevelse? Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Kjærvik, Jonas (2013). Corruption and the Duration of Political Regimes, 1984-2008. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Kristiansen, Idunn (2013). Institutions and Armed Conflict: Is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Unique? Institutt for Sammenliknende politikk, UiB.

Pedersen, Jørn Wichne (2013). Democracy and Famine Revisited: Investigating the Effects of Contestation, Participation and Civil Liberties. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Rasmussen, Ingrid Selle (2013). Income Growth and Democratization – An Instrumental-Variable Approach. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Rudolfsen, Ida (2013). State Capacity, Inequality and Inter-group Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Rød, Espen Geelmuyden (2012). Institutions Under Authoritarianism and Coup Attempts: 1950-2008. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Steinfeld, Knut Jervell (2012). President eller parlament? En studie av presidentstyrers effekt på demokratisk kvalitet. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Stiansen, Øyvind (2013). Post-Conflict Democracy for Durable Peace? Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.

Støen, Ximena Azzari (2012). Økonomisk utvikling, regimeendringer og faren for borgerkrigsutbrudd. Institutt for statsvitenskap, UiO.


Varieties of Democracy.


The project is financed by the The Research Council of Norway and its Independent projects/FRIPRO (FRISAM) grant. Please see the Research Council of Norway’s webpage for more information.


The project cooperates with the ‘Varieties of democracy’ (V-Dem) project, hosted at the Kellogg Institute at Notre Dame University and the Quality of Government Institute at University of Gothenburg. The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) is also partner to the project.

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