Does Rigidity Matter? Constitutional Entrenchment and Growth
European Journal of Law and Economics (forthcoming)
48 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2020 Last revised: 26 Oct 2021
Date Written: October 25, 2021
Should procedural barriers to constitutional amendment be more onerous than those to
the policy changes of ordinary politics? – i.e., should constitutions be entrenched? One criterion by
which to evaluate these questions is economic performance. Using data on countries worldwide and
constitutional adoptions from 1973 to 2017, we estimate the effect of constitutional entrenchment
(rigidity) on economic growth. We employ matching methods to make causal inferences. The
adoption of a constitution that is meaningfully more rigid than its predecessor defines a treatment.
In our benchmark estimations (based on 19 treatments), post-treatment effects on growth are
generally small and statistically insignificant. However, when we examine a subsample that excludes autocracies (13 treatments), post-treatment effects are always negative and sometimes statistically significant. The same is true when we exclude treatments associated with coups (12 treatments). Contrary to many scholars’ priors, the evidence suggests that, if anything (and based on the limited number of available treatments), greater entrenchment causes less economic growth.
Keywords: constitutions; entrenchment; constitutional rigidity; constitutional amendments; political economy; matching methods; economic growth; economic development
JEL Classification: O43; P00; P16; P48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation