Rights Without Resources: The Impact of Constitutional Social Rights on Social Spending

77 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2016 Last revised: 26 Feb 2017

Adam S. Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School

Mila Versteeg

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: October 22, 2016

Abstract

Over the past decades, 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, policy-makers, and development economists 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 data on 186 countries’ constitutional rights, 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

Suggested Citation

Chilton, Adam S. and Versteeg, Mila, Rights Without Resources: The Impact of Constitutional Social Rights on Social Spending (October 22, 2016). Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2016-20; University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 781; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 598. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2857731

Adam S. Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.adamchilton.org

Mila Versteeg (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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