Abstract Constitutions are commonly described as national products shaped by domestic politics. This paper develops and empirically tests a different hypothesis, which is that constitutions are also shaped by transnational influence, or “diffusion”. Constitutional rights can diffuse through four mechanisms: coercion, competition, learning and acculturation. To test diffusion, we traced the historical documents of all post-WWII constitutions and documented the presence of 108 constitutional rights. Using a sample of these rights in 180 countries between 1948 and 2001, we estimate a spatial lag model to explain their adoption. Our results show that countries follow the choices of their former colonizer, countries with the same legal origin, the same religion, the same former colonizer, and the same aid donor. We also find that diffusion explains only 3 percent of the variation in adoption. However, when a country adopts its first constitution, diffusion is much stronger and explains 46 percent of the variation.
|Place of Publication||Tilburg|
|Number of pages||51|
|Publication status||Published - 2013|
|Name||CentER Discussion Paper|
- human rights
- spatial econometrics