Rights Without Resources: The Impact of Constitutional Social Rights on Social Spending
95 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2016 Last revised: 29 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 26, 2016
Constitutions around the world have come to protect a growing number of social rights. This constitutionalization of social rights has generally been met with approval from academics, human rights activists, and policy-makers alike. But despite this widespread support, there is hardly any evidence on whether the inclusion of rights in constitutions actually changes how governments provide social services to their citizens. We take up this question by studying the effect of adopting the constitutional right to education and healthcare on government spending. Using a dataset on 196 countries’ constitutional rights and data from the World Development Indicators, we employ a variety of empirical tests to examine if the rights to education and healthcare are associated with increases in government spending. Our results suggest that the adoption of these social rights is not associated with statistically significant or substantively meaningful increases in government spending on education or healthcare.
Keywords: Constitutional Rights, Constitutional Law, Comparative Law, Social Rights, Human Rights, Education Spending, Healthcare Spending
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