Civil Liberties Indicator


This indicator measures country performance on freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law and human rights, personal autonomy, individual and economic rights, and the independence of the judiciary.  

Countries are rated on the following factors:

  • freedom of cultural expression, religious institutions and expression, and academia;
  • freedom of assembly and demonstration, of political organization and professional organization, and collective bargaining;
  • independence of the media and the judiciary;
  • freedom from economic exploitation;
  • protection from police terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, and torture;
  • the existence of rule of law, personal property rights, and equal treatment under the law;
  • freedom from indoctrination and excessive dependency on the state;
  • equality of opportunity;
  • freedom to choose where to travel, reside, and work;
  • freedom to select a marriage partner and determine whether or how many children to have; and
  • the existence of a legal framework to grant asylum or refugee status in accordance with international and regional conventions and system for refugee protection.

Relationship to Growth & Poverty Reduction

Studies show that an expansion of civil liberties can promote economic growth by reducing social conflict, removing legal impediments to participation in the economy, encouraging adherence to the rule of law, enhancing protection of property rights, increasing economic rates of return on government projects, and reducing the risk of project failure. 1 Additional research has shown that civil liberties have a positive effect on domestic investment and productivity, increase the success of investments by international actors, enhance economic freedoms, and can bolster growth through the freedom of mobility for individuals. 2


A team of expert analysts and scholars evaluate countries on a 60-point scale – with 60 representing “most free” and 0 representing “least free.” The Civil Liberties indicator is based on a 15 question checklist grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3 questions), Rule of Law (4 questions), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4 questions). Points are awarded to each question on a scale of 0 to 4, where 0 points represents the fewest liberties and 4 represents the most liberties. The highest number of points that can be awarded to the Civil Liberties checklist is 60 (or a total of up to 4 points for each of the 15 questions). TThe full list of questions included in Freedom House’s methodology may be found at:

In consultation with Freedom House, MCC considers countries with scores above 25 to be passing this indicator.


  • 1. Pritchett, Lant H., Daniel Kaufmann, and Jonathan Isham. 1997. Civil Liberties, Democracy, and the Performance of Government Projects. World Bank Economic Review 11(2): 219. Clague, C., Keefer, P., Knack, S., and M. Olson. 1996. Property and contract rights in autocracies and democracies. Journal of Economic Growth 1(2): 243-276. Henisz, Witold J. 2000. The Institutional Environment for Economic Growth. Economics and Politics 12(1): 1-31. Rodrik, D. and Romain Wacziarg. 2005. Do Democratic Transitions Produce Bad Economic Outcomes? American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 95(2): 50-55. Rodrik, Dani. 2000. Participatory Politics, Social Cooperation, and Economic Stability. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 90(2): 140-144. Rodrik, Dani. 2000. Institutions for High-Quality Growth: What They Are and How to Acquire Them. Studies in Comparative International Development 35(3): 3-31. Weingast, Barry. 1995. The Economic Role of Political Institutions: Market-Preserving Federalism and Economic Development. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 11: 1-31.
  • 2. Blume, Lorens and Stefan Voigt. 2007. The Economic Effects of Human Rights. Kyklos,60(4): 509–538. Kaufmann, Daniel. 2004. Human Rights and Governance: The Empirical Challenge. Presented at the Human Rights and Development: Towards Mutual Reinforcement Conference, New York University Law School, New York City. Vega-Gordillo, Manuel and Jose A lvarez-Arce. 2003. Economic Growth and Freedom: A Causality Study. Cato Journal, 23(2): 190– 215. BenYishay, A. and Roger Betancourt. 2010. Civil Liberties and Economic Development. Journal of Institutional Economic.