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Using the law to change the custom

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  • Aldashev, Gani
  • Chaara, Imane
  • Platteau, Jean-Philippe
  • Wahhaj, Zaki

Abstract

The custom often acts as a powerful hindrance to equity-increasing changes. In this paper, we present a simple model of legal dualism in which a progressive legal reform can, under certain conditions, shift the conflicting custom in the direction intended by the legislator. Formal law then acts as an outside anchor that exerts a 'magnet effect’ on the custom. We also characterize the conditions under which a moderate reform performs better than a radical one in improving the welfare of the disadvantaged sections of the population. We illustrate our insights using examples on inheritance, marriage, and divorce in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Suggested Citation

  • Aldashev, Gani & Chaara, Imane & Platteau, Jean-Philippe & Wahhaj, Zaki, 2012. "Using the law to change the custom," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 182-200.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:97:y:2012:i:2:p:182-200 DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2011.03.001
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    Cited by:

    1. Cervellati, Matteo & Vanin, Paolo, 2013. "“Thou shalt not covet”: Prohibitions, temptation and moral values," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 15-28.
    2. Olivia D'Aoust & Olivier Sterck, 2016. "Who Benefits from Customary Justice? Rent-seeking, Bribery and Criminality in sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 25(3), pages 439-467.
    3. Chen, Daniel L. & Levonyan, Vardges & Yeh, Susan, 2016. "Policies Affect Preferences: Evidence from Random Variation in Abortion Jurisprudence," IAST Working Papers 16-58, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    4. Cecchi, Francesco & Melesse, Mequanint Biset, 2016. "Formal law and customary change: A lab-in-field experiment in Ethiopia," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 67-85.
    5. Heltberg,Rasmus & Lakhani,Sadaf Sayyeda & Sacks,Audrey, 2014. ""They Are Not Like Us": Understanding Social Exclusion," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6784, The World Bank.
    6. Pedro Naso & Erwin Bulte & Tim Swanson, 2017. "Can there be benefits from competing legal regimes? The impact of legal pluralism in post-conflict Sierra Leone," CIES Research Paper series 56-2017, Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute.
    7. Pal, Sarmistha & Wahhaj, Zaki, 2017. "Fiscal decentralisation, local institutions and public good provision: evidence from Indonesia," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, pages 383-409.
    8. Ali, Daniel Ayalew & Deininger, Klaus & Goldstein, Markus, 2014. "Environmental and gender impacts of land tenure regularization in Africa: Pilot evidence from Rwanda," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 262-275.
    9. Same Moukoudi, Teclaire & Geenen, Sara, 2015. "Discourses, fragmentation and coalitions: the case of Herakles Farms’ large-scale land deal in Cameroon," IOB Discussion Papers 2015.03, Universiteit Antwerpen, Institute of Development Policy (IOB).
    10. Jean-Philippe Platteau & Guilia Camilotti & Emmanuelle Auriol, 2017. "Eradicating women-hurting customs: What role for social engineering?," WIDER Working Paper Series 145, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    11. Ryan Bubb, 2013. "The Evolution of Property Rights: State Law or Informal Norms?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(3), pages 555-594.
    12. Amrit Amirapu, 2017. "Justice Delayed is Growth Denied: The Effect of Slow Courts on Relationship-Specific Industries in India," Studies in Economics 1706, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    13. Giampaolo Lecce & Laura Ogliari & Tommaso Orlando, 2017. "Resistance to Institutions and Cultural Distance: Brigandage in Post-Unification Italy," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2097, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    14. Cervellati, Matteo & Vanin, Paolo, 2013. "“Thou shalt not covet”: Prohibitions, temptation and moral values," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 15-28.
    15. Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2009. "Institutional obstacles to African economic development: State, ethnicity, and custom," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 669-689, September.
    16. repec:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:413-430 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Imane Chaara, 2012. "Pro-Women Legal Reform in Morocco: Is Religion an Obstacle?," Working Papers 685, Economic Research Forum, revised 2012.
    18. Mizuno, Nobuhiro, 2016. "Political structure as a legacy of indirect colonial rule: Bargaining between national governments and rural elites in Africa," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, pages 1023-1039.
    19. Gani Aldashev, 2009. "Legal institutions, political economy, and development," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(2), pages 257-270, Summer.
    20. Chaara, Imane, 2011. "Pro-Women Legal Reform in Morocco: Is Religion an Obstacle?," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 17, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
    21. Jean-Philippe Platteau, 2009. "Institutional Obstacles to African Economic Development: State, Ethnicity, and Custom," Post-Print hal-00726664, HAL.
    22. Chen, Daniel L. & Yeh, Susan, 2016. "How Do Rights Revolutions Occur? Free Speech and the First Amendment," IAST Working Papers 16-51, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    23. Gani Aldashev & Imane Chaara & Jean-Philippe Platteau & Zaki Wahhaj, 2012. "Formal Law as a Magnet to Reform Custom," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(4), pages 795-828.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Custom; Statutory law; Legal reform;

    JEL classification:

    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions

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