Proper Nouns and Methodological Propriety: Pooling Dyads in International Relations Data

International Organization, Vol. 55, No. 2, pp. 497-507, Fall 2001

11 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2008


The intellectual stakes at issue in this symposium are very high: Green, Kim, and Yoon (2000; hereinafter GKY) apply their proposed methodological prescriptions and conclude that they key findings in the field is wrong; democracy "has no effect on militarized disputes." GKY are mainly interested in convincing scholars about their methodological points and see themselves as having no stake in the resulting substantive conclusions. However, their methodological points are also high stakes claims: if correct, the vast majority of statistical analyses of military conflict ever conducted would be invalidated.

GKY say they "make no attempt to break new ground statistically," but, as we will see, this both understates their methodological contribution to the field and misses some unique features of their application and data in international relations. On the ltter, GKY's critics are united: Oneal and Russett (2000) conclude that GKY's method "produces distorted results," and show even in GKY's framework how democracy's effect can be reinstated. Beck and Katz (2000) are even more unambiguous: "GKY's conclusion, in table 3, that variables such as democracy have no pacific impact, is simply nonsense...GKY's (methodological) NEVER a good idea."

My given task is to sort out and clarify these conflicting claims and counterclaims. The procedure I followed was to engage in extensive discussions with the participants that included joint reanalyses provoked by our discussions and passing computer program code (mostly with Monte Carlo simulations) back and forth to ensure we were all talking about the same methods and agreed with the factual results. I learned a great deal from this process and believe that the positions of the participants are now a lot closer than it may seem from their written statements. Indeed, I believe that all the participants now agree with what I have written here, even though they would each have different emphases (and although my believing there is agreement is not the same as there actually being agreement!).

Suggested Citation

King, Gary, Proper Nouns and Methodological Propriety: Pooling Dyads in International Relations Data. Available at SSRN:

Gary King (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-500-7570 (Phone)


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