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Data Problems and Solutions in the Empirical Study of Political Violence

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Abstract:

Observing violent behavior is problematic for generating valid inferences. Perpetrators sometimes hide or sometimes reveal their illicit actions depending on the political context in which they are embedded. In both cases, the acts are imperfectly observed because monitors and other observers are not able to access all places within a specific political context at all times. The strategic choices of the perpetrators and the limited resources of the monitors entail that complete and unbiased data of violent acts or victims are rarely if ever available. Scholars are aware of these issues and have developed a variety of solutions. However to date, we are unsure of which solutions provide the most valid estimates of the “true” number of events or victims. Armed conflict over Kosovo presents an ideal case to test a variety of methods against each other because of the availability of a complete and accurate census of human losses that occurred from 1998 through 2000. Additional to the census, ten other data sources generated by a variety of different enumerators are available. These various data sources are representative of the type of incomplete and biased data scholars usually have at their disposal to empirically research violence. Using this set of “imperfect data,” we apply the variety of research methods that have to date been suggested to mitigate issues of under-registration and selection bias. These methods include using the data as is, pooling several sets of data, weighting estimates according to hypothesized selection effects, standards-based approaches, latent variable models, and multiple systems estimation. A comparison of our estimates to the census allows us to establish which methods appear most valid and reliable for recovering the “truth” and making inferences with data from direct observation. Our results provide important implications and insights for the future of empirical research on political violence.
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Name: American Political Science Association Annual Meeting
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1129233_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Krüger, Jule. and Lo, Adeline. "Data Problems and Solutions in the Empirical Study of Political Violence" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, TBA, Philadelphia, PA, Sep 01, 2016 <Not Available>. 2017-11-28 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1129233_index.html>

APA Citation:

Krüger, J. and Lo, A. , 2016-09-01 "Data Problems and Solutions in the Empirical Study of Political Violence" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, TBA, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2017-11-28 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1129233_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Observing violent behavior is problematic for generating valid inferences. Perpetrators sometimes hide or sometimes reveal their illicit actions depending on the political context in which they are embedded. In both cases, the acts are imperfectly observed because monitors and other observers are not able to access all places within a specific political context at all times. The strategic choices of the perpetrators and the limited resources of the monitors entail that complete and unbiased data of violent acts or victims are rarely if ever available. Scholars are aware of these issues and have developed a variety of solutions. However to date, we are unsure of which solutions provide the most valid estimates of the “true” number of events or victims. Armed conflict over Kosovo presents an ideal case to test a variety of methods against each other because of the availability of a complete and accurate census of human losses that occurred from 1998 through 2000. Additional to the census, ten other data sources generated by a variety of different enumerators are available. These various data sources are representative of the type of incomplete and biased data scholars usually have at their disposal to empirically research violence. Using this set of “imperfect data,” we apply the variety of research methods that have to date been suggested to mitigate issues of under-registration and selection bias. These methods include using the data as is, pooling several sets of data, weighting estimates according to hypothesized selection effects, standards-based approaches, latent variable models, and multiple systems estimation. A comparison of our estimates to the census allows us to establish which methods appear most valid and reliable for recovering the “truth” and making inferences with data from direct observation. Our results provide important implications and insights for the future of empirical research on political violence.


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