in: American political science review, Volume 113, Issue 3, p. 868-881
ISSN: 0003-0554 (print), 1537-5943 (electronic)
To document human rights, monitoring organizations establish a standard of accountability, or a baseline set of expectations that states ought to meet in order to be considered respectful of human rights. If the standard of accountability has meaningfully changed, then the categorized variables from human rights documents will mask real improvements. Cingranelli and Filippov question whether the standard of accountability is changing and whether data on mass killings are part of the same underlying conceptual process of repression as other abuses. These claims are used to justify alternative models, showing no improvement in human rights. However, by focusing on the coding process, the authors misunderstand that the standard of accountability is about how monitoring organizations produce documents in the first place and not how academics use published documents to create data. Simulations and latent variables that model time in a substantively meaningful way validate the conclusion that human rights are improving.