State capacity is an important concept in the study of development and conflict in political science. In our 2017 Journal of Politics article, we contribute to this scholarship by demonstrating the importance of the state’s information gathering and processing functions for state capacity. We argue that state capacity depends on “legibility,” or the breadth and depth of the state’s information about its citizens and their activities. We demonstrate that legibility allows the state to effectively monitor private behavior and enforce rules and regulations.
We operationalize legibility by estimating the accuracy of age data reported in national population censuses. Because of the close relationship between legibility and state capacity, our measure, which we call Myers Scores, can be deployed as a proxy for state capacity. Unlike other state capacity indicators, Myers Scores are available for a large number of countries at the national and subnational levels from 1960 onward.
This website makes available our state capacity data as well as all supplemental information for users interested in using our measure. The data can be downloaded in Stata format here.