Do the English Legal Origin Countries have more dispersed Share Ownership and more developed financial Systems?
The essence of the legal origin hypothesis is that a country with an English legal origin provides better investor and creditor protection and experiences greater financial development; financial institutions and stock markets flourish, the general public participate more in financing investment projects of companies and so shareholding is less concentrated. The present paper examines this hypothesis on the basis of a cross-country study of 85 countries. We find no evidence of more dispersed share ownership in the English law countries than in other countries with different legal origins irrespective of whether we adjust for the existence of transitional economies and less developed countries present in the sample. Using three indicators of development of banking and other credit institutions and four indicators of stock market developments, we also find no evidence of more developed financial systems in the English law countries. As expected, there is some evidence of lower financial development in the less developed countries and transitional countries. It is not the English law heritage but the security of persons and goods that appears to explain the cross-country variations in financial development.
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