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Initial Conditions, Institutional Dynamics and Economic Performance: Evidence from the American States

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  • Daniel Berkowitz

    ()

  • Karen Clay

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Abstract

Using state-level data from the United States, we find that differences in colonial legal institutions affect the current quality of state legal institutions. These differences in colonial legal institutions arose because some states were settled by Great Britain, a common law country, and other states were settled by France, Spain, and Mexico, all civil law countries. To explain these findings, we develop a transplant-civil law hypothesis that highlights the disruption associated with large-scale legal transplantation and the possible relative inefficiencies of colonial civil law. We find strong support for the transplant-civil law hypothesis. Our results are robust to inclusion of additional variables capturing climate, geography, initial population and resource endowments. Given the 150-200 year gap between the initial conditions and the measures of the current quality of legal institutions, we provide indirect evidence on the persistence of legal institutions. We then use initial legal systems and climate to quantify the substantial impact of current institutions on current economic performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Berkowitz & Karen Clay, 2003. "Initial Conditions, Institutional Dynamics and Economic Performance: Evidence from the American States," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-615, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2003-615
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    Cited by:

    1. Lakshmi Iyer & Noel Maurer, 2008. "The Cost of Property Rights: Establishing Institutions on the Philippine Frontier Under American Rule, 1898-1918," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-023, Harvard Business School, revised Apr 2009.
    2. Efraim Benmelech & Tobias J. Moskowitz, 2010. "The Political Economy of Financial Regulation: Evidence from U.S. State Usury Laws in the 19th Century," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(3), pages 1029-1073, June.
    3. Glaeser, Edward L. & Saks, Raven E., 2006. "Corruption in America," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1053-1072, August.
    4. Luciano Nakabashi & Ana Elisa Gonçalves Pereira & Adolfo Sachsida, 2013. "Institutions and growth: a developing country case study," Journal of Economic Studies, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 40(5), pages 614-634, October.
    5. Juan Mendoza & Andrés Rosas, 2013. "The Economic Effects of Geography: Colombia as a Case Study," REVISTA DESARROLLO Y SOCIEDAD, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE, January.
    6. Basher, Syed A. & Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2008. "Per-capita income gaps across US states and Canadian provinces," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 1173-1187, September.
    7. Joana Naritomi & Rodrigo R. Soares & Juliano J. Assunção, 2007. "Rent Seeking and the Unveiling of 'De Facto' Institutions: Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," NBER Working Papers 13545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter & Basher, Syed A., 2005. "Geography, population density, and per-capita income gaps across US states and Canadian provinces," MPRA Paper 369, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 28 Sep 2006.
    9. Naritomi, Joana & Soares, Rodrigo R. & Assunção, Juliano J., 2012. "Institutional Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 393-422, June.
    10. Edward L. Glaeser & Raven Saks, 2004. "Corruption in America," NBER Working Papers 10821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    common law; civil law; transplant; initial conditions; state courts and public corruption;

    JEL classification:

    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems

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