Author(s): Evan Lieberman
Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Studies in Comparative International Development
Volume and Issue: 36(4)
Page Numbers: 89 - 115
Cross-national research on taxation is a growth industry in political science. This article discusses key conceptual and measurement issues raised by such studies. First, it highlights the ways in which taxation has been studied as a rich and varied concept, including as a component of the state-building process, as a collective action problem, and/or as a problem of distributive justice. Second, the article identifies the central tradeoffs associated with the construction of taxation indicators used to measure such ideas. It discusses considerations such as which forms of revenue should be included and which should not, whether and how to standardize taxation measures, and how to fine-tune measures through a clear specification of units, universes, and measurement calibration. These choices have important implications for the “scoring” of countries, and for making valid inferences about the relationship between states and societies.