Measuring institutional overlap in global governance

Yoram Z. Haftel*, Tobias Lenz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Over the past decade, an increasingly sophisticated literature has sought to capture the nature, sources, and consequences of a novel empirical phenomenon in world politics: the growing complexity of global governance. However, this literature has paid only limited attention to questions of measurement, which is a prerequisite for a more comprehensive understanding of global governance complexity across space and time. In taking a first step in this direction, we make two contributions in the article. First, we propose new quantitative measures that gauge the extent of complexity in global governance, which we conceptualize as the degree to which global governance institutions overlap. Dyadic, weighted, directed-dyadic, and monadic measures enable a multifaceted understanding of this important development in world politics. Second, we illustrate these measures by applying them to an updated version of the most comprehensive data set on the design of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs): the Measure of International Authority (MIA). This allows us to identify cross-sectional and temporal patterns in the extent to which important IGOs, which tend to form the core of sprawling regime complexes in many issue areas, overlap. We conclude by outlining notable implications for, and potential applications of, our measures for research on institutional design and evolution, legitimacy, and legitimation, as well as effectiveness and performance. This discussion underscores the utility of the proposed measures, as both dependent and independent variables, to researchers examining the sources and consequences of institutional overlap in global governance and beyond.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)323-347
Number of pages25
JournalReview of International Organizations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The order of authors is chosen alphabetically. Author contributions to writing and conceptual development: Y.H. (50%), T.L. (50%); measurement and empirical analysis: Y.H. (80%), T.L. (20%); theoretical implications: Y.H. (20%), T.L. (80%). Research for this article was generously supported by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony’s Research Cooperation Lower Saxony – Israel grant. We thank Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Benjamin Faude, Stephanie Hofmann, Oliver Westerwinter, Michael Zürn, the participants at a panel of the German Political Science Association International Relations Section conference, Freiburg, October 2020, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. A special thanks is due to Liesbet Hooghe who proposed the idea of writing a measurement article on institutional overlap. We also thank Dan Eran and Mona Saleh for valuable research assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Global governance
  • International organizations
  • Overlap
  • Regime complexity


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