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The Law's Majestic Equality? The Distributive Impact of Litigating Social and Economic Rights

42 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016  

Daniel M. Brinks

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law

Varun Gauri

World Bank; World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Date Written: March 1, 2012

Abstract

Optimism about the use of laws, constitutions, and rights to achieve social change has never been higher among practitioners. But the academic literature is skeptical that courts can direct resources toward the poor. This paper develops a nuanced account in which not all courts are the same. Countries and policy areas characterized by judicial decisions with broader applicability tend to avoid the potential anti-poor bias of courts, whereas areas dominated by individual litigation and individualized effects are less likely to have pro-poor outcomes. Using data on social and economic rights cases in five countries, the authors estimate the potential distributive impact of litigation by examining whether the poor are over or under-represented among the beneficiaries of litigation, relative to their share of the population. They find that the impact of courts varies considerably across the cases, but is positive and pro-poor in two of the five countries (India and South Africa), distribution-neutral in two others (Indonesia and Brazil), and sharply anti-poor in Nigeria. Overall, the results of litigation are much more positive for the poor than conventional wisdom would suggest.

Keywords: Health Monitoring & Evaluation, Judicial System Reform, Population Policies, Gender and Law, Labor Policies

Suggested Citation

Brinks, Daniel M. and Gauri, Varun, The Law's Majestic Equality? The Distributive Impact of Litigating Social and Economic Rights (March 1, 2012). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2024823

Daniel M. Brinks (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

Varun Gauri

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/vgauri

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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