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World System Status and Development Status: Overfitting or Proxy Variables

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Bollen (1983) presents cross-national evidence that countries located in the periphery and semi-periphery have lower degrees of political democracy than those in the core. Weede and Kummer (1985) question these findings based on an analysis which demonstrates that "development status" variables, created by categorizing an economic development measure, have roughly similar coefficients as those for the world system measures. From this they conclude that world system measures have no real effects on democracy and that the statistical significance of the measures results from "overfitting". This note discusses the flaws in Weede and Kummer's arguments and shows that their results are easily explained by realizing that world system status and development status are both proxies for the true world system positions. I also comment on the fallacy of their "overfitting" claim. In sum, their results are consistent with a negative effect of noncore position and their work provides little reason to question the original findings in Bollen (1983).


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