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Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy

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Major Power Status (In)Consistency and Political Relevance in International Relations Studies

Renato Corbetta
  • Government, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HHB 411 1401 University Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA
  • :
/ Thomas J. Volgy
  • Department of Government and Public Policy, University of Arizona, Social Sciences 330, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
/ J. Patrick Rhamey Jr.
  • Department of International Studies and Political Science, Virginia Military Institute, 435 Scott Shipp Hall, Lexington, VA 24450, USA
Published Online: 2013-12-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/peps-2013-0046


Political relevance is frequently used as a sample selection criterion to limit massive data frames in which most dyads have little or no probability of interaction. Because political relevance may introduce bias in both sample composition and empirical findings, several studies have proposed alternative operationalizations. Yet, major power status appears in every definition of political relevance. This practice may be problematic for two reasons. First, authors often use major power status as a proxy for capabilities, while status itself may have an effect separate from capabilities. Second, popular operationalizations of major power status – including the Correlates of War classification – treat all great power states as having equal status and, consequently, as being equally predisposed towards various political behaviors and interactions. We suggest, instead, that the opportunity and willingness for political action vary among great powers as a function of their status consistency. Using the classification developed in [Volgy, Thomas J., Renato Corbetta, Keith A. Grant, Ryan G. Baird, (2011), Major Powers and the Quest for Status in International Politics: Global and Regional Perspectives, Palgrave MacMillan, New York], we propose that (1) major power states differ in their baseline probability for political interaction based on whether they are status consistent, status inconsistent overachievers, or status inconsistent underachievers and, therefore, that (2) politically relevant dyads may differ depending on the status consistency of the major power they contain. Using the 1950–2001 period as our empirical domain, we explore the implications of selecting politically relevant dyads based status (in)consistency for studies on conflict onset, conflict joining, and foreign intervention.

Keywords: status; major powers; political relevance; conflict

Corresponding author: Renato Corbetta, Government, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HHB 411 1401 University Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA, Tel.: +205-934-2336, Fax: +205-975-5712, E-mail:

Published Online: 2013-12-17

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

Citation Information: Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy. Volume 19, Issue 3, Pages 291–307, ISSN (Online) 1554-8597, ISSN (Print) 1079-2457, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/peps-2013-0046, December 2013

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