Martin Luther King Day

Jan. 21, 2019 Weekly Graphs

Today, Martin Luther King Day is celebrated in the United States. The federal holiday marks the birth of the activist who became the most visible leader of the civil rights movement from 1954 until his death in 1968. Martin Luther King not only had a dream of a more equal society, he also successfully protested racial discrimination leading to the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation, recovery of black suffrage in the South, and the dismantling of a regional authoritarian enclave of single party rule in one the world’s oldest republics. This week’s graph will therefore focus on social group equality in the United States of America compared to the development worldwide from 1945-2008.

By using the Variable Graph, we illustrate the V-Dem indicator “social group equality in respect for civil liberties”. Here, civil liberties are understood to include access to justice, private property rights, freedom of movement, and freedom from forced labor. The figure reveals a slight but steady increase of equality in the world (red) over time, while there is a sharp rise in the United States (blue) in the 1960s that clearly reflects the influence of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. However, today’s average rating between values of 2 and 3 equals a status where members of some social groups enjoy slightly (3) or moderately (2) fewer civil liberties than the general population. This is alarming since it means that some groups that are distinguished by language, ethnicity, religion, race, region, or caste do not have the same level of civil liberties, as other citizens, in the majority of the countries across the globe. 

To check out V-Dem’s graphing tools and to learn more about our indicators and different ways to measure democracy, please visit

Social Group equality World vs USA GoW 01_21_2019.png

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