Demand for Constitutional Decentralization

27 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2019

See all articles by Eric Alston

Eric Alston

Finance Division, University of Colorado Boulder

Date Written: June 19, 2019


Increasingly, decentralization has proven to be a policy fix selected by developing countries whose new governments represent a significant regime change. This analysis adds to the literature on decentralization by identifying the extent to which factors that lead to divergent policy preferences result in greater definition of decentralization in a given constitution. The principle of subsidiarity suggests that the more localities and regions vary from each other, either in terms of population, language, religion, or resource endowments, the more likely these populations’ policy preferences differ. This implies that the benefits of subsidiarity, and hence, decentralization are greater in such contexts. As a result, pressures for decentralization on constitutional drafters should increase with a country’s size, population, terrain ruggedness, number of ethnicities and religions, and regional variance in wealth. I test several aspects of this hypothesis, based upon initial data from 48 Muslim countries’ constitutions. Beyond the noteworthy conclusion that population is more important than territorial size in determining constitutional definition of subnational government, the results also suggest linguistic divides play an important role in determining the heterogeneity of policy preferences within a given nation, more so than simple ethnic diversity.

Keywords: Comparative constitutional law, constitutional design, decentralization, federalism, subsidiarity

Suggested Citation

Alston, Eric, Demand for Constitutional Decentralization (June 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Eric Alston (Contact Author)

Finance Division, University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

Campus Box 419
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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