Legal Institutions and Financial Development

41 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Thorsten Beck

Thorsten Beck

City University London - Sir John Cass Business School; Tilburg University - European Banking Center, CentER

Ross Levine

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2003

Abstract

A burgeoning literature finds that financial development exerts a first-order impact on long-run economic growth, which raises critical questions, such as why do some countries have well-developed growth-enhancing financial systems while others do not? The law and finance theory focuses on the role of legal institutions in explaining international differences in financial development. First, the law and finance theory holds that in countries where legal systems enforce private property rights, support private contractual arrangements, and protect the legal rights of investors, savers are more willing to finance firms and financial markets flourish. Second, the different legal traditions that emerged in Europe over previous centuries and were spread internationally through conquest, colonization, and imitation help explain cross-country differences in investor protection, the contracting environment, and financial development today. But there are countervailing theories and evidence that challenge both parts of the law and finance theory. Many argue that there is more variation within than across legal origin families. Others question the central role of legal tradition and point to politics, religious orientation, or geography as the dominating factor driving financial development. Finally, some researchers question the central role of legal institutions and argue that other factors, such as a competitive products market, social capital, and informal rules are also important for financial development. Beck and Levine describe the law and finance theory, along with skeptical and competing views, and review empirical evidence on both parts of the law and finance view.

This paper - a product of Finance, Development Research Group - is part of a larger effort in the group to understand the link between financial development and economic growth. It was prepared for Claude Menard and Mary Shirley, eds., Handbook of New Institutional Economics, Kluwer Dordrecht (The Netherlands), forthcoming (2004).

Suggested Citation

Beck, Thorsten and Levine, Ross Eric, Legal Institutions and Financial Development (September 2003). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 3136. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=636556

Thorsten Beck (Contact Author)

City University London - Sir John Cass Business School ( email )

106 Bunhill Row
London, EC1Y 8TZ
United Kingdom

Tilburg University - European Banking Center, CentER ( email )

PO Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Ross Eric Levine

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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