The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 31–54 | Cite as

What Do the Worldwide Governance Indicators Measure?

  • M A Thomas
Original Article


As policymakers and researchers focus more on the question of the impact of governance in economic development, they have required measures of the quality of governance to set policy or to conduct analyses. A number of measures of the quality of governance have been created. Among these are the Worldwide Governance Indicators, which rank countries on six aspects of ‘good governance’. Critics have focused on problems of bias or lack of comparability that raise questions about the utility of these indicators. However, a more fundamental question is that of whether the indicators have ‘construct validity’ – whether they measure what they purport to measure. This paper considers the construct validity of the indicators and raises the question of whether researchers and policymakers are relying on wrong data, rather than poor data.

Les responsables politiques et les chercheurs ont besoin de mesures concrètes de la qualité de la gouvernance afin de pouvoir déterminer l’impact de celle-ci, en particulier par rapport au développement économique. Un certain nombre d’indicateurs ont récemment été créés, parmi lesquels les Indicateurs de gouvernance dans le monde de la Banque Mondiale, qui classent les pays à partir de six critères de « bonne gouvernance ». L’utilité de ces indicateurs a été mise en question pour des raisons de distorsion ainsi que des problèmes de manque de comparabilité. Cependant, une question plus fondamentale est celle de la validité théorique de ces indicateurs, c’est-à-dire, s’ils mesurent ce qu’ils prétendent mesurer. Cet article considère la validité conceptuelle de ces indicateurs et cherche à déterminer dans quelle mesure les chercheurs et les responsables politiques ne sont pas en train de se baser sur des données fausses, plutôt que des données insuffisantes.


governance corruption rule of law measurement construct validity 



The initial draft of this paper, under the same title, was written and posted in 2006; a revision was posted in 2007. The author thanks Ray Koopman, Francis Fukuyama, David Armor, Daniel Kaufmann, Aart Kraay, Richard Messick, Anwar Shah, Michael Johnston, Omar Azfar, Stephen Knack, Simeon Djankov, Alice Fredericks and the anonymous referees of this journal for their thoughtful comments and insights, as well as her research assistant, Scott Merrill, for his able assistance.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • M A Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.The Johns Hopkins UniversityUSA

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