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Measuring Institutional Design in U.S. States

Scott J. LaCombe

Social Science Quarterly, 2021, vol. 102, issue 4, 1511-1533

Abstract: Objective The role of institutions in state politics has been recognized for decades. However, most of this research has evaluated the role of a single institution at a time, such as the role of the ballot initiative or legislative professionalism. Little is known about how institutions may have counterbalancing or reinforcing effects. Method I propose evaluating institutions collectively much in the way that comparative politics scholars have evaluated the collective set of institutions that create levels of democracy. Results Through an exploratory factor analysis, I find that state institutions can primarily be understood along two dimensions, accountability pressure and checks and balances. I use a Bayesian factor analysis of mixed data to generate institutional scores for all 50 states along both dimensions from 1975 to 2016. Conclusion Theses scores will be a resource to understand how a state`s collective institutional environment affects a wide variety of phenomena, from policy responsiveness to voter turnout or policy innovation.

Date: 2021
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