The Transnational Origins of Constituions: Evidence From a New Global Data Set On Constitional Rights

B.V.G. Goderis, M. Versteeg

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Abstract

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 To test diffusion, we traced the historical documents of all post-WWII constitutions and documented the presence of 108 constitutional rights.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.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherEconomics
Number of pages51
Volume2013-010
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper
Volume2013-010

Keywords

  • constitutions
  • diffusion
  • human rights
  • spatial econometrics

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    Goderis, B. V. G., & Versteeg, M. (2013). The Transnational Origins of Constituions: Evidence From a New Global Data Set On Constitional Rights. (CentER Discussion Paper; Vol. 2013-010). Economics.