Skip to main content Accessibility help

Introduction: The Power of Global Performance Indicators

  • Judith G. Kelley and Beth A. Simmons


In recent decades, IGOs, NGOs, private firms and even states have begun to regularly package and distribute information on the relative performance of states. From the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index to the Financial Action Task Force blacklist, global performance indicators (GPIs) are increasingly deployed to influence governance globally. We argue that GPIs derive influence from their ability to frame issues, extend the authority of the creator, and — most importantly — to invoke recurrent comparison that stimulates governments' concerns for their own and their country's reputation. Their public and ongoing ratings and rankings of states are particularly adept at capturing attention not only at elite policy levels but also among other domestic and transnational actors. GPIs thus raise new questions for research on politics and governance globally. What are the social and political effects of this form of information on discourse, policies and behavior? What types of actors can effectively wield GPIs and on what types of issues? In this symposium introduction, we define GPIs, describe their rise, and theorize and discuss these questions in light of the findings of the symposium contributions.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Introduction: The Power of Global Performance Indicators
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Introduction: The Power of Global Performance Indicators
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Introduction: The Power of Global Performance Indicators
      Available formats



Hide All
Aaron, Joshua R., McMillan, Amy, and Cline, Brandon N.. 2012. Investor Reaction to Firm Environmental Management Reputation. Corporate Reputation Review 15 (4):304–18.
Adair, John G. 1984. The Hawthorne Effect: A Reconsideration of the Methodological Artifact. Journal of Applied Psychology 69 (2):334–45.
Apaza, Carmen R. 2009. Measuring Governance and Corruption Through the Worldwide Governance Indicators: Critiques, Responses, and Ongoing Scholarly Discussion. PS: Political Science and Politics 42 (1):139–43.
Arndt, Christiane. 2008. The Politics of Governance Ratings. International Public Management Journal 11 (3):275–97.
Arndt, Christiane, and Oman, Charles. 2006. Uses and Abuses of Governance Indicators. Development Centre of the OECD.
Ashmore, Richard D., Deaux, Kay, and McLaughlin-Volpe, Tracy. 2004. An Organizing Framework for Collective Identity: Articulation and Significance of Multidimensionality. Psychological Bulletin 130 (1):80114.
Avant, Deborah D., Finnemore, Martha, and Sell, Susan K., eds. 2010. Who Governs the Globe? Cambridge University Press.
Bäckstrand, Karin. 2006. Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Rethinking Legitimacy, Accountability and Effectiveness. European Environment 16 (5):290306.
Baldwin, David A. 2016. Power and International Relations: A Conceptual Approach. Princeton University Press.
Barnett, Michael, and Duvall, Raymond. 2005. Power in International Politics. International Organization 59 (1):3975.
Bisbee, James, Hollyer, James R., Peter Rosendorff, B., and Vreeland, James Raymond. 2019. The Millennium Development Goals and Education: Accountability and Substitution in Global Assessment. International Organization 73 (3). <>
Blader, Steven L., and Chen, Ya-Ru. 2012. Differentiating the Effects of Status and Power: A Justice Perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 102 (5):9941014.
Borgatti, Stephen P., and Cross, Rob. 2003. A Relational View of Information Seeking and Learning in Social Networks. Management Science 49 (4):432–45.
Börzel, Tanja, and Risse, Thomas. 2005. Public-Private Partnerships: Effective and Legitimate Tools of International Governance. In Complex Sovereignty, edited by Pauly, Louis and Grande, Edgar, 195216. University of Toronto Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1989. Social Space and Symbolic Power. Sociological Theory 7 (1):1425.
Broome, Andre, and Quirk, Joel. 2015. Governing the World at a Distance: The Practice of Global Benchmarking. Review of International Studies 41 (Special Issue 5):819–41.
Buchanan, Allen, and Keohane, Robert O.. 2006. The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions. Ethics and International Affairs 20 (4):405–37.
Büthe, Tim. 2012. Beyond Supply and Demand: A Political-Economic Conceptual Model. Governance by Indicators: Global Power Through Classification and Rankings. In Governance by Indicators: Global Power Through Classification and Rankings, edited by Davis, Kevin, Fisher, Angelina, Kingsbury, Benedict, and Merry, Sally Engle, 2951. Oxford University Press.
Carpenter, R. Charli. 2007. Setting the Advocacy Agenda: Theorizing Issue Emergence and Nonemergence in Transnational Advocacy Networks. International Studies Quarterly 51 (1):99120.
Carpenter, R. Charli. 2011. Vetting the Advocacy Agenda: Network Centrality and the Paradox of Weapons Norms. International Organization 65 (1):69102.
Checkel, Jeffrey T. 2001. Why Comply? Social Learning and European Identity Change. International Organization 55 (3):553–88.
Chwieroth, Jeffrey M. 2013. “The Silent Revolution:” How the Staff Exercise Informal Governance Over IMF Lending. The Review of International Organizations 8 (2):265–90.
Dafoe, Allan, Renshon, Jonathan, and Huth, Paul. 2014. Reputation and Status as Motives for War. Annual Review of Political Science 17 (1):371–93.
Dai, Xinyuan. 2007. International Institutions and National Policies. Cambridge University Press.
Davenport, Thomas H., Eccles, Robert G., and Prusak, Laurence. 1998. Information Politics. The Strategic Management of Intellectual Capital. In The Strategic Management of Intellectual Capital, edited by Klein, David A, 101–20. Butterworth-Heinemann.
Davis, Kevin E., Fisher, Angelina, Kingsbury, Benedict, and Merry, Sally Engle, eds. 2012. Governance by Indicators: Global Power Through Classification and Rankings. Oxford University Press.
Davis, Kevin E., Kingsbury, Benedict, and Merry, Sally Engle. 2012. Indicators as a Technology of Global Governance. Law and Society Review 46 (1):71104.
Davis, Kevin E., Merry, Sally Engle, and Kingsbury, Benedict. 2015. The Quiet Power of Indicators: Measuring Governance, Corruption, and the Rule of Law. Cambridge University Press.
De Búrca, Gráinne, Keohane, Robert O., and Sabel, Charles. 2014. Global Experimentalist Governance. British Journal of Political Science 44 (3):477–86.
Doshi, Rush, Kelley, Judith G., and Simmons, Beth A.. 2019. The Power of Ranking: The Ease of Doing Business Indicator and Global Regulatory Behavior. International Organization 73 (3). <>
Espeland, Wendy Nelson, and Sauder, Michael. 2007. Rankings and Reactivity: How Public Measures Recreate Social Worlds. American Journal of Sociology 113 (1):140.
Espeland, Wendy Nelson, and Stevens, Mitchell L.. 1998. Commensuration as a Social Process. Annual Review of Sociology 24 (1):313–43.
Filmer, Deon, Hasan, Amer, and Pritchett, Lant. 2006. A Millennium Learning Goal: Measuring Real Progress in Education. Center for Global Development Working Paper no. 97. Available at <>.
Fioramonti, Lorenzo. 2013. Gross Domestic Problem: The Politics Behind the World's Most Powerful Number. Zed Books.
Ginsburg, Alan, Cooke, Geneise, Leinwand, Steve, Noell, Jay, and Pollock, Elizabeth. 2005. Reassessing US International Mathematics Performance: New Findings from the 2003 TIMSS and PISA. American Institutes for Research. Available at <> .
Hale, Thomas, and Held, David. 2011. Handbook of Transnational Governance. Polity.
Hale, Thomas, and Roger, Charles. 2014. Orchestration and Transnational Climate Governance. The Review of International Organizations 9 (1):5982.
Hall, Rodney Bruce, and Biersteker, Thomas J.. 2002. The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance. Cambridge University Press.
Hansen, Hans Krause. 2012. The Power of Performance Indices in the Global Politics of Anti-Corruption. Journal of International Relations and Development 15 (4):506–31.
Harsanyi, John C. 1966. A Bargaining Model for Social Status in Informal Groups and Formal Organizations. Behavioral Science 11 (5):357–69.
Heiss, Andrew, and Kelley, Judith G.. 2017. From the Trenches: A Global Survey of Anti-TIP NGOs and Their Views of US Efforts. Journal of Human Trafficking 3 (3):231–54.
Hendrix, Cullen S., and Wong, Wendy H.. 2013. When Is the Pen Truly Mighty? Regime Type and the Efficacy of Naming and Shaming in Curbing Human Rights Abuses. British Journal of Political Science 43 (3):651–72.
Honig, Dan, and Weaver, Catherine. 2019. A Race to the Top? The Aid Transparency Index and the Social Power of Global Performance Indicators. International Organization 73 (3). <>
Høyland, Bjørn, Moene, Karl, and Willumsen, Fredrik. 2012. The Tyranny of International Index Rankings. Journal of Development Economics 97 (1):114.
Joachim, Jutta M., Reinalda, Bob, and Verbeek, Bertjan, eds. 2008. International Organizations and Implementation: Enforcers, Managers, Authorities? Routledge/ECPR.
Johnson, Matthew. 2018. Regulation by Shaming: Deterrence Effects of Publicizing Violations of Workplace Safety and Health Laws. Unpublished manuscript, Duke University. Available at < view>.
Johnston, Alastair Iain. 2001. Treating International Institutions as Social Environments. International Studies Quarterly 45 (4):487516.
Karpik, Lucien. 2010. Valuing the Unique: The Economics of Singularities. Princeton University Press.
Kaufmann, Daniel, Kraay, Aart, and Zoido, Pablo. 1999. Governance Matters. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper no. 2196: Available at SSRN <>.
Keck, Margaret E., and Sikkink, Kathryn. 1998. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Cornell University Press.
Kelley, Judith G. 2017. Scorecard Diplomacy: Grading States to Influence Their Reputation and Behavior. Cambridge University Press.
Kelley, Judith G. and Simmons, Beth A.. 2015. Politics by Number: Indicators as Social Pressure in International Relations. American Journal of Political Science 59 (1):1146–61.
Koppell, Jonathan GS. 2005. Pathologies of Accountability: ICANN and the Challenge of “Multiple Accountabilities Disorder.” Public Administration Review 65 (1):94108.
Larson, James R., and Callahan, Christine. 1990. Performance Monitoring: How It Affects Work Productivity. Journal of Applied Psychology 75 (5):530–38.
Latané, Bibb 1981. The Psychology of Social Impact. American Psychologist 36 (4):343–56.
Lebovic, James H., and Voeten, Erik. 2006. The Politics of Shame: The Condemnation of Country Human Rights Practices in the UNCHR. International Studies Quarterly 50 (4):861–88.
Levy, Marc A. 1993. European Acid Rain: The Power of Tote-Board Diplomacy. In Institutions for the Earth: Sources of Effective International Environmental Protection, edited by Haas, Peter M., Keohane, Robert O., and Levy, Marc A., 75132. MIT Press.
Löwenheim, Oded. 2008. Examining the State: A Foucauldian Perspective on International “Governance Indicators.” Third World Quarterly 29 (2):255–74.
Luca, Michael, and Smith, Jonathan. 2013. Salience in Quality Disclosure: Evidence from the US News College Rankings. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy 22 (1):5877.
Malito, Debora Valentina, Umbach, Gaby, and Bhuta, Nehal, eds. 2018. The Palgrave Handbook of Indicators in Global Governance. Palgrave MacMillan.
Manners, Ian. 2002. Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms? JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 40 (2):235–58.
McCombs, Maxwell E., and Shaw, Donald L.. 1972. The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media. Public Opinion Quarterly 36 (2):176–87.
Meredith, Marc. 2004. Why Do Universities Compete in the Ratings Game? An Empirical Analysis of the Effects of the US News and World Report College Rankings. Research in Higher Education 45 (5):443–61.
Merry, Sally Engle, and Conley, John M.. 2011. Measuring the World: Indicators, Human Rights, and Global Governance. Current Anthropology 52 (S3):S83S95.
Miller, Clark A. 2005. New Civic Epistemologies of Quantification: Making Sense of Indicators of Local and Global Sustainability. Science, Technology and Human Values 30 (3):403–32.
Monks, James, and Ehrenberg, Ronald G.. 1999. US News and World Report's College Rankings: Why They Do Matter. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 31 (6):4251.
Morse, Julia C. 2019. Blacklists, Market Enforcement, and the Global Regime to Combat Terrorist Financing. International Organization 73 (3). <>
Murdie, Amanda M., and Davis, David R.. 2012. Shaming and Blaming: Using Events Data to Assess the Impact of Human Rights INGOs. International Studies Quarterly 56 (1):116.
Murguia, Juan M., and Lence, Sergio H.. 2015. Investors’ Reaction to Environmental Performance: A Global Perspective of the Newsweek's “Green Rankings.” Environmental and Resource Economics 60 (4):583605.
Nelson, Stephen Craig. 2017. The Currency of Confidence: How Economic Beliefs Shape the IMF's Relationship with Its Borrowers. Cornell University Press.
O'Rourke, Dara. 2006. Multi-Stakeholder Regulation: Privatizing or Socializing Global Labor Standards? World Development 34 (5):899918.
Osborne, Stephen. 2002. Public-private Partnerships: Theory and Practice in International Perspective. Routledge.
Parks, Bradley, and Masaki, Takaaki. 2016. When Do Performance Assessments Influence Policy Behavior? Micro-Evidence from the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey. Presented at the APSA Annual Conference, Mini-Conference on Assessment Power in World Politics, Philadelphia PA.
Pawson, Ray. 2006. Evidence-based Policy: A Realist Perspective. Sage.
Pope, Devin G. 2009. Reacting to Rankings: Evidence from “America's Best Hospitals.” Journal of Health Economics 28 (6):1154–65.
Rege, Mari. 2008. Why Do People Care About Social Status? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 66 (2):233–42.
Ridgeway, Cecilia L. 2013. Why Status Matters for Inequality. American Sociological Review.
Rieh, Soo Young. 2002. Judgment of Information Quality and Cognitive Authority in the Web. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 53 (2):145–61.
Risse, Thomas. 1999. International Norms and Domestic Change: Arguing and Communicative Behavior in the Human Rights Area. Politics and Society 27 (4):529–59.
Ron, James, Ramos, Howard, and Rodgers, Kathleen. 2005. Transnational Information Politics: NGO Human Rights Reporting, 1986–2000. International Studies Quarterly 49 (3):557–87.
Rosen, Stephen Peter. 2005. War and Human Nature. Princeton University Press.
Schäferhoff, Marco, Campe, Sabine, and Kaan, Christopher. 2009. Transnational Public-Private Partnerships in International Relations. International Studies Review 11 (3):451–74.
Scheufele, Dietram, and Tewksbury, David. 2007. Framing, Agenda Setting, and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models. Journal of Communication 57 (1):920.
Schueth, Sam. 2011. Assembling International Competitiveness: The Republic of Georgia, USAID, and the Doing Business Project. Economic Geography 87 (1):5177.
Sikkink, Kathryn. 1993. Human Rights, Principled Issue-Networks, and Sovereignty in Latin America. International Organization 47 (3):411–41.
Simmons, Beth A. 2009. Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics. Cambridge University Press.
Simonsohn, Uri. 2011. Lessons from an “Oops” at Consumer Reports: Consumers Follow Experts and Ignore Invalid Information. Journal of Marketing Research 48 (1):112.
Sinclair, Timothy J. 2008. The New Masters of Capital: American Bond Rating Agencies and the Politics of Creditworthiness. Cornell University Press.
Stanton, Elizabeth A. 2007. The Human Development Index: A History. PERI Working Paper, no. 85. Available at <>.
Stone, Diane. 2002. Introduction: Global Knowledge and Advocacy Networks. Global Networks 2 (1):112.
Szyszczak, Erika. 2006. Experimental Governance: The Open Method of Coordination. European Law Journal 12 (4):486502.
Thomas, Melissa A. 2010. What Do The Worldwide Governance Indicators Measure? The European Journal of Development Research 22 (1):3154.
Tingley, Dustin H., and Walter, Barbara F.. 2011. The Effect of Repeated Play on Reputation Building: An Experimental Approach. International Organization 65 (2):343–65.
Van de Walle, Steven. 2006. The State of the World's Bureaucracies. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 8 (4):437–48.
Van Ham, Peter. 2001. The Rise of the Brand State: The Postmodern Politics of Image and Reputation. Foreign Affairs 80 (5):26.
Weisband, Edward. 2000. Discursive Multilateralism: Global Benchmarks, Shame, and Learning in the ILO Labor Standards Monitoring Regime. International Studies Quarterly 44 (4):643–66.
Wilson, Patrick. 1983. Second-hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority. Greenwood.
Wohlforth, William C. 2009. Unipolarity, Status Competition, and Great Power War. World Politics 61 (1):2857.
Zürn, Michael. 2004. Global Governance and Legitimacy Problems. Government and Opposition 39 (2):260–87.
Zürn, Michael. 2018. A Theory of Global Governance: Authority, Legitimacy, and Contestation. Oxford University Press.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Kelley and Simmons supplementary material
Kelley and Simmons supplementary material 1

 Unknown (121 KB)
121 KB

Introduction: The Power of Global Performance Indicators

  • Judith G. Kelley and Beth A. Simmons


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.