Database of Political Institutions

Research project

The Database of Political Institutions (DPI) was compiled by the Development Research Group of the World Bank for research in comparative political economy and comparative political institutions. Beck et al. (2001) present the database and demonstrate its utility by examining the impact of divided government on public debt and the impact of presidentialism vs. parliamentarism on democratic consolidation.


Database of Political Institutions (DPI)

Database of Political Institutions


Database of Political Institutions






180 countries

Last reviewed


Data types and sources

Election data and expert coding. The coding is primarily based on two sources: the Political Handbook of the World, edited by Arthur Banks, and the Europa Year Book. In addition two on-line sources are credited: the PARLINE database from the International Parliamentary Union and the IFES Election Guide

Data download

Database of Political Institutions


The Database of Political Institutions (DPI) contains 125 variables, mainly measuring aspects of the political system and electoral rules. The variables are organised in five groups:

  • Chief executive variables. E.g., presidential or parliamentary system, years in office, the chief executive’s party affiliation.
  • Party variables in the legislature. Variables describing various aspects of the legislature and parties in the legislature, e.g. number of seats held by various parties, whether one party holds an absolute majority and date of elections.
  • Electoral rules. E.g., plurality or proportional electoral systems, threshold for representation, whether or not elections are affected by fraud.
  • Stability and checks and balances. E.g., age of present regime, checks and balances, polarisation.
  • Federalism. E.g., whether there are autonomous regions and whether municipal governments are locally elected.
  • Geographical coverage

    The DPI covers all independent countries with populations above 100.000 (Beck et al. 2000: 36) – 180 countries in the latest version.

    Time coverage and updates

    Years covered: 1975-2010.
    Frequency of updates not stated. Last updated in December 2010.

    A note summarizes the changes to variable definitions from DPI2009 to DPI2010 and major errors corrected.


    The coding rules and sources are described in detail in the codebook, which is available online as a separate document (Keefer 2010). An earlier version of the DPI is described in Beck et al. (2000, 2001). In addition variable descriptions and database changes/corrections for the 2000, 2004 and 2006 updates are available for download.

    Access conditions and cost

    Available free of charge.

    Access procedures

    Predefined table. The entire database can be downloaded in a single file.

    Data formats

    STATA. In addition DPI2009 is available in excel.

    Comparability and data quality

    There are relatively few databases that provide quantitative data on political institutions, and the DPI therefore fills an important gap.The DPI is a comprehensive and detailed source of quantitative data on political institutions. Equally important as the extensive coverage, is the detailed documentation of the process of variable creation and coding. The codebook discusses some of the difficulties and shortcomings of selected varibale constructs, which increases the impression of thoroughness and quality in the dataset. However, according to Zoco (2004), users should examine the variables before using them in quantitative analysis, as the database contains some important weaknesses. In a review of the 2000 version of DPI, she finds examples of inaccurate data collection and some coding and measurement problems. But several of these inaccuracies are corrected in later versions. See chapter 5 in Rydland et al. (2008) for a more detailed discussion of measurement problems in the DPI and other datasets with quantitative data on political institutions.


    Beck, Thorsten, George Clarke, Alberto Groff, Philip Keefer and Patrick Walsh. 2000. “New tools and new tests in comparative political economy: the Database of Political Institutions”. Policy Research Working Paper, No. 2283, Development Research Group, World Bank.

    Beck, Thorsten, George Clarke, Alberto Groff, Philip Keefer and Patrick Walsh. 2001. “New tools and new tests in comparative political economy: the Database of Political Institutions”. World Bank Economic Review 15 (September): 165-176.

    Keefer, Philip. 2010. DPI2010. Database of Political Institutions: Changes and Variable Definitions. Development Research Group, World Bank.

    Rydland, Lars Tore, Sveinung Arnesen and Åse Gilje Østensen. 2008. Contextual data for the European Social Survey. An Overview and assessment of extant resources. NSD Report No.124, Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD).

    Zoco, Edurne. 2004. “A review of the World Bank Data Base on Political Institutions”. APSA-CP Newsletter 15 (Summer): 32-34.