The Constraining Power of International Treaties

Date Published:

Aug 1, 2005


With Daniel Hopkins. American Political Science Review (forthcoming, August 2005)

We acknowledge the contribution of von Stein (200X) in calling attention to the very real problem of selection bias in estimating treaty effects. Nonetheless, we dispute both von Stein?s theoretical and empirical conclusions. Theoretically, we contend that treaties can both screen and constrain simultaneously, meaning that findings on screening do nothing to undermine the claim that treaties constrain state behavior as well. Empirically, we questions von Stein?s estimator on several grounds, including its strong distributional assumptions and its statistical inconsistency. We then illustrate that selection bias does not account for much of the difference between Simmons? (2000) and von Stein?s (200x) estimated treaty effects, and instead reframe the problem as one of model dependency. Using a preprocessing matching step to reduce that dependency, we then illustrate treaty effects that are both substantively and statistically significant – and that are quiet close in magnitude to those reported by Simmons (2000).