Does rigidity matter? Constitutional entrenchment and growth

Justin Callais, Andrew T. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Should procedural barriers to constitutional amendment be more onerous than those to the policy changes of ordinary politics? – i.e., should constitutions be entrenched? One criterion by which to evaluate these questions is economic performance. Using data on countries worldwide and constitutional adoptions from 1973 to 2017, we estimate the effect of constitutional entrenchment (rigidity) on economic growth. We employ matching methods to make causal inferences. The adoption of a constitution that is meaningfully more rigid than its predecessor defines a treatment. In our benchmark estimations (based on 19 treatments), post-treatment effects on growth are generally small and statistically insignificant. However, when we examine a subsample that excludes autocracies (13 treatments), post-treatment effects are always negative and sometimes statistically significant. The same is true when we exclude treatments associated with coups (12 treatments). Contrary to many scholars’ priors, the evidence suggests that, if anything (and based on the limited number of available treatments), greater entrenchment causes less economic growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-62
Number of pages36
JournalEuropean Journal of Law and Economics
Volume53
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Constitutional amendments
  • Constitutional rigidity
  • Constitutions
  • Economic development
  • Economic growth
  • Entrenchment
  • Matching methods
  • Political economy

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