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Why Do Countries Adopt Constitutional Review?


  • Tom Ginsburg
  • Mila Versteeg


In recent decades, there has been a wide-ranging global movement towards constitutional review. This development poses important puzzles of political economy: Why would self-interested governments willingly constrain themselves by constitutional means? What explains the global shift toward judicial supremacy? Though different theories have been proposed, none have been systematically tested against each other using quantitative empirical methods. In this article, we utilize a unique new dataset on constitutional review for 204 countries for the period 1781–2011 to test various theories that explain the adoption of constitutional review. Using a fixed-effects spatial lag model, we find substantial evidence that the adoption of constitutional review is driven by domestic electoral politics. By contrast, we find no general evidence that constitutional review adoption results from ideational factors, federalism, or international norm diffusion. (JEL: K00, K19, K49)

Suggested Citation

  • Tom Ginsburg & Mila Versteeg, 2014. "Why Do Countries Adopt Constitutional Review?," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(3), pages 587-622.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:30:y:2014:i:3:p:587-622.

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    Cited by:

    1. Zareh Asatryan & César Castellón & Thomas Stratmann, 2016. "Balanced Budget Rules and Fiscal Outcomes: Evidence from Historical Constitutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 5893, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Hayo, Bernd & Voigt, Stefan, 2016. "Explaining constitutional change: The case of judicial independence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 1-13.
    3. Romain Espinosa, 2016. "State provision of constitutional goods," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 1-40, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K00 - Law and Economics - - General - - - General (including Data Sources and Description)
    • K19 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Other
    • K49 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Other


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