David Kuenzel and Theo Eicher (University of Washington) published “European Influence and Economic Development” in the May issue of the Canadian Journal of Economics.
In the paper, Kuenzel and Eicher investigate how constitutional changes affect countries’ economic development. While there is a large literature that emphasizes the importance of European influence for long-run economic growth, this paper offers for the first time a quantifiable mechanism: the adoption of European constitutional features. Kuenzel and his coauthor construct a dataset of all constitutional dimensions from 1800-2008 for all countries and find that nations experience accelerations in GDP growth after adopting features of European constitutions. The growth effects are influenced (negatively) by periods of political turmoil, but they are independent of colonial backgrounds. Importantly, the paper shows how European influence may have fostered growth and the results imply that countries were able to overcome adverse initial conditions over the last 200 years by adopting European constitutional features. Moreover, the constitutional dataset used by Kuenzel and his coauthor allows to identify which specific dimensions of European constitutions matter most for development: legislative rule and provisions that curtail executive powers.