Researching the politics of development



The political settlements dataset: An introduction with illustrative applications

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Working paper 165

Nicolai Schulz and Tim Kelsall

The social sciences have long been invested in answering the question of whether and how different configurations of de facto political power affect economic, political and social development. So far, however, a lack of adequate data has made it difficult to test the validity of contending frameworks and hypotheses across time and space. The Political Settlements (PolSett) dataset aims to fill this gap. This original expert-survey-based dataset covers over 200 political economy variables coded for 42 countries in the Global South from 1946 or independence to 2018 (totalling 2,718 country-years). Allowing the detailed mapping of countries’ configurations of power, it captures information on the relative size, strength and social composition of contending political blocs in society, their internal cohesion, accountability relations and benefit distribution. The dataset further adds novel variables related to systemic threats, the strength of domestic capitalists, and the character of social and economic policy. Following a description of the dataset’s major features, validity and limitations, the paper applies one of its key indices – the Power Concentration Index – to five distinct political and economic outcomes to illustrate its potential.