Mapping Coercive Institutions: The State Security Forces Dataset, 1960-2010

27 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2019 Last revised: 18 Oct 2019

Date Written: October 17, 2019


How rulers organize and use their security forces is thought to have important implications for regime survival, repression, and military effectiveness. Yet while a number of studies provide insight into the coercive institutions of individual states, efforts to understand systematic patterns have been hampered by a lack of reliable data on state security forces that can be compared across states and within them over time. This article presents the State Security Forces (SSF) dataset, which includes 375 security forces in 110 countries, 1960-2010. It tracks how each security force is commanded, staffed, equipped, and deployed, as well as the number of security forces and potential counterweights in each state’s security sector as a whole. After illustrating how the SSF dataset differs from related ones and presenting descriptive trends, the article shows how it can be used to deepen our understanding of coup proofing and strategic substitution, and identifies additional research uses of the dataset.

Keywords: security forces, coercive institutions, coup-proofing, military organization, policing, paramilitary, militia

JEL Classification: Y80

Suggested Citation

De Bruin, Erica, Mapping Coercive Institutions: The State Security Forces Dataset, 1960-2010 (October 17, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Erica De Bruin (Contact Author)

Hamilton College ( email )

198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
United States


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