Why do we still measure state fragility?

Gulzhan Asylbek kyzy, Gary Milante, Zina Nimeh & Kaj Thomsson


Measuring and monitoring countries that are fragile is a rapidly growing but complicated task. Quantifying state fragility or any concept that is highly complex is loaded with theoretical assumptions, principles and definitions that may differ substantially across indices. This paper explains why the fragility community remains invested in expanding the concept of fragility, presents an updated stocktaking of the existing fragility indices and evaluates them using the framework approach. Reviewing the selected indices reveals that they can be indeed a source of useful signal. However, there can also be worthless noise associated with these indices because of the identified cross-reference issue between the indices, problems of double-counting or time lag in data. The paper argues that it would rather complicate than aid to believe that there is a particular index that is better than another. Instead, it encourages a more nuanced understanding of different fragility indices and concludes with offering insights into how to make sense of them.

Keywords: state fragility, measurement, composite indicators

JEL Classification: D74, O43, O19

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