The Economic Effects of Human Rights

30 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2007

See all articles by Lorenz Blume

Lorenz Blume

Phillips University Marburg

Stefan Voigt

University of Hamburg - Institute of Law & Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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There are three positions concerning the economic effects of human rights discussed among economists. Some economists argue that only property rights matter for economic growth and basic human rights can even make the legal system less efficient. Others argue that negative rights are generally welfare increasing while positive rights tend to reduce income and growth over time. Yet a third group of economists argues that elements of all groups of human rights are a precondition for making productive use of one's resources and are thus efficiency-enhancing. Based on a cross-country analysis, the effects of different groups of human rights on economic growth are estimated in this paper. The transmission channels through which the different rights affect growth are identified by estimating their effects on investment and overall productivity. Basic human rights have indeed a positive effect on investment, but do not seem to contribute to productivity. Social rights, in turn, are not conducive to investment in physical capital but do contribute to productivity improvements. None of the four groups of rights covered in this analysis ever has a significant negative effect on any of the economic variables included.

Suggested Citation

Blume, Lorenz and Voigt, Stefan, The Economic Effects of Human Rights. Kyklos, Vol. 60, No. 4, pp. 509-538, November 2007, Available at SSRN: or

Lorenz Blume (Contact Author)

Phillips University Marburg ( email )

Am Plan 2
Marburg, D-35037

Stefan Voigt

University of Hamburg - Institute of Law & Economics ( email )

Johnsallee 35
Hamburg, 20148
+49-40-428385782 (Phone)
+49-40-428386794 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679

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