The Varieties of Democracy Project (V-Dem) is an ambitious, international effort begun in 2010 to produce new indicators of democracy for all countries since 1900. With measures of democracy in great demand, V-Dem is on its way to providing the global community with the world’s most accurate and detailed democracy ratings.
An International Collaboration
The collaborative project is led by Faculty Fellow Michael Coppedge, former Visiting Fellow John Gerring of Boston University, Staffan I. Lindberg of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Svend-Erik Skanning of Aarhus University, Denmark. The Kellogg Institute serves as the project’s institutional home in the US, and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden serves that function in Europe.
In addition to its PIs, the V-Dem team includes 16 researchers at 15 universities in the US, Europe, and Latin America, as well as the input of more than 2000 country experts around the world.
A New Understanding of Democratization
V-Dem seeks to capture seven different conceptions of democracy—participatory, consensual, majoritarian, deliberative, and egalitarian, in addition to the more familiar electoral and liberal democracy—in all countries since 1900. The different types of democracy are broken down into components and then into 329 specific indicators.
The reliable, precise nature of the indicators as well as their lengthy historical coverage will be useful to scholars studying why democracy succeeds or fails and how it affects human development, as well as to governments and NGOs wishing to evaluate efforts to promote democracy. V-Dem intends to make the improved indicators freely available for use by researchers, NGOs, international organizations, activists, and journalists.
More information about V-Dem is available at v-dem.net, including visualization interfaces for data from 120 countries, with most other countries in the world to be added in 2015.
The first wave of data collection finished in fall 2014, covering up to 113 years of data for 166 countries out of the 206 under study. A partial update taking some countries through 2014 and the complete coding of 30 new countries took place in January 2015.
Quality control is critical to the success of V-Dem. Throughout 2015, the team will be cleaning and aggregating the data as well as crosschecking it with lateral coding to ensure accuracy within and across countries. All the data will be made public by January 1, 2016.
V-Dem is very much a collaborative effort. The V-Dem team at Notre Dame has overseen the development of software for the research database and the web interfaces and also administered much of the data collection in the Americas. The V-Dem team in Gothenburg has administered data collection in the rest of the world, developed the administrative database, and received most of the funding.
Both teams have held project presentations around the world to introduce local researchers to the possibilities of the soon-to-be released data. The Kellogg Institute cosponsored the first such unveiling in Latin America in Santiago, Chile in January 2014.
Funding from the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond has allowed the team to move forward on three subprojects:
Building composite measures of democracy by aggregating specific indicators into more general dimensions
Identifying the stages and sequencing of the democratization process, including early warning signs of democratic breakdowns
Analyzing processes of diffusion, including how and under what conditions democracy spreads.
In addition, a recent National Science Foundation grant to Notre Dame and two other US universities underwrites analysis of the impact of various aspects of democracy on health, education, economic growth, and other outcomes.
Kellogg Community Involvement
The Varieties of Democracy project has benefitted from the involvement of the entire Kellogg community:
Kellogg faculty fellows and graduate students give input through the Democracy Working Group.
Co-PIs and project leaders have visited the Institute to lecture and take part in working sessions.
Undergraduate international scholars have helped build a database of potential country experts, gathered data on legislatures, and helped to edit the project’s website.
A Kellogg collaborative faculty grant (twice renewed) provided a boost to the project in its early days. The Institute continues to provide funding and staff support for V-Dem.
Building on seed funding from the Kellogg Institute and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2010, V-Dem has gone on to win more than $10 million in project support. (Funds are for the entire collaboration but listed under their recipient institutions.) Proposals for additional funding are under development.
Received by the University of Gothenburg—$8.7 million
Canadian International Development Agency, Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission, Quality of Governance Institute, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, University of Gothenburg
Received by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies—$570,000
Androniko Luksic Grants Program, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Research Council of Norway, National Science Foundation, and the University of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Office of Research, and Center for Creative Computing
Received by Aarhus University—$1.2 million
Danish Research Council
(areas of project expertise listed under names)
Michael Coppedge (University of Notre Dame)
John Gerring (Boston University)
Staffan I. Lindberg (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
Svend-Erik Skanning (Aarhus University, Denmark) (starting March 2015)
Civil Liberties; Western Europe
Jan Teorell (Lund University, Sweden) (until March 2015)
The Executive, Europe
David Altman (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
Direct Democracy; Latin America
Michael Bernhard (University of Florida)
Civil Society; Sovereignty; Central & Eastern Europe
M. Steven Fish (University of California, Berkeley)
Legislatures; Post-Soviet States
Adam Glynn (Harvard University)
Allen Hicken (University of Michigan)
Parties and Party Systems; Asia
Carl Henrik Knutsen (University of Oslo)
Patrik Lindenfors (Stockholm University)
Evolutionary Theory, Democratization
Kelly McMann (Case Western Reserve University)
Subnational Government; Russia & Central Asia
Daniel Pemstein (North Dakota State University)
Megan Reif (University of Colorado Denver)
Election Fraud and Violence
Jeffrey Staton (Emory University)
The Judiciary; Latin America
Former Project Managers
Matthew Kroenig (Georgetown University)
Legislatures; Western Europe
Pamela Paxton (University of Texas, Austin)
Formal & Descriptive Representation
Holli Semetko (Emory University)
Media; Western Europe