The Reach of the State

34 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2021 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Charles Chang

Charles Chang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Yuhua Wang

Department of Government, Harvard University

Date Written: November 17, 2021


We reinvigorate the concept of state infrastructural power by highlighting how the physical presence of the state influences citizen behavior by signaling state interest and strength. We propose a new measure of state infrastructure based on points-of-interest data provided by location-based services companies. Our measure helps researchers address four challenges associated with studying state infrastructural power: 1) it draws on firm-produced (rather than government-produced) data, 2) it includes geo-referenced location information, which can be aggregated to any geographical or administrative level, 3) it traces temporal changes in state infrastructure, and 4) it covers different types of state agencies. We illustrate its features using original databases that we constructed by scraping state agencies in China and other countries. We demonstrate how researchers can use our measure by examining how coercive organizations reduce protests and provide our data, code, and a tutorial to help researchers explore new avenues of inquiry.

Keywords: State infrastructural power, state capacity, points-of-interest, sub-national design, China

Suggested Citation

Chang, Charles and Wang, Yuhua, The Reach of the State (November 17, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Charles Chang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Yuhua Wang (Contact Author)

Department of Government, Harvard University ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


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