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Political Constraint Index


Henisz, University of Pennsylvania

Stated Purpose: 

Measure the feasibility of change in policy given the structure of a nation’s political institutions and the preference of the actors that inhabit them.

Area of Governance: 
Funding Source: 

University of Pennsylvania.

Current usage: 

The Political Constraint Index is used for political risk analysis for investment purposes and for predicting policy variability more generally.

Type of data used: 

Expert coding by the author, based on sources from datasets such as Polity IV, the Cross-National Time-Series Data Archive and others. (uses crossnational times series dataset


Country Coverage: 226 countries.
Year Coverage: 1800 - 2010 (used 2007 data for the 2010 version)

Contact details: 

Professor Witold Henisz  
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
3107 Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
Tel: 215.898.0788 


The dataset contains 90 variables (including country identifiers) that measure various features of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. The central variables are indices that seek to estimate the degree of political constraints.

The index uses quantitative data on the number of independent branches of administrative government with veto power, over policy change, and the distribution of preferences within those veto players. These data are analysed in a simple spatial model of political interaction to assess the feasibility with which any one actor can
secure a change in the status quo.

Format of results: 

Scale 0 (most hazardous - no checks and balances) to 1 (most constrained – extensive checks and balances).

Valid Use: 

The index can be used to determine the constraints faced by politicians desiring to change a status quo policy in a country in a given year.

Invalid Use: 

The index is a narrow measure of political institutions and should not be used as a measurement for democracy or good governance.

Example results: