IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

European Influence and Economic Development


  • Theo S. Eicher

    (University of Washington)

  • David J. Kuenzel

    (Economics Department, Wesleyan University)


The development accounting literature identifies political institutions as fundamental development determinants. Forms of government or executive constraints are thought to shape economic institutions (e.g., property rights) which provide the necessary incentives for economic growth. The consensus in this literature is that European influence affects economic development, presumably via the adoption of European institutions. But how exactly did European influence in the distant past induce positive economic outcomes today? While previous approaches rely on “language,” “settler mortality,” “legal origins,” or the “number of European settlers” as indirect proxies of European influence, we propose a direct and quantifiable mechanism: the adoption of European constitutional features. We construct a dataset of all constitutional dimensions in all countries from 1800-2008, and find that nations experience growth spurts after adopting features of European constitutions. The growth effects are influenced (negatively) by periods of political turmoil, but they are independent of colonial backgrounds. These results imply that countries have been able to overcome adverse initial conditions over the last 200 years by adjusting European influence via the adoption of European constitutional features. Our constitutional dataset is also sufficiently detailed to identify which dimensions of European constitutions matter for development, namely legislative rules and provisions that curtail executive power.

Suggested Citation

  • Theo S. Eicher & David J. Kuenzel, 2017. "European Influence and Economic Development," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2017-002, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2017-002

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hayo, Bernd & Voigt, Stefan, 2013. "Endogenous constitutions: Politics and politicians matter, economic outcomes don’t," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 47-61.
    2. Giavazzi, Francesco & Tabellini, Guido, 2005. "Economic and political liberalizations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1297-1330, October.
    3. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2004. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions Over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 131-165, June.
    4. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    5. Easterly, William, 2007. "Inequality does cause underdevelopment: Insights from a new instrument," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 755-776, November.
    6. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-1250.
    7. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2009. "Democratic Capital: The Nexus of Political and Economic Change," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 88-126, July.
    8. Dani Rodrik & Romain Wacziarg, 2005. "Do Democratic Transitions Produce Bad Economic Outcomes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 50-55, May.
    9. Guido Tabellini, 2010. "Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 677-716, June.
    10. Rodrik, Dani, 2005. "Growth Strategies," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 967-1014 Elsevier.
    11. Fabrice Murtin & Romain Wacziarg, 2014. "The democratic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 141-181, June.
    12. Rodrik, Dani, 1999. "Where Did All the Growth Go? External Shocks, Social Conflict, and Growth Collapses," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 4(4), pages 385-412, December.
    13. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1995. "Institutions And Economic Performance: Cross-Country Tests Using Alternative Institutional Measures," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 207-227, November.
    14. Blundell, Richard & Bond, Stephen, 1998. "Initial conditions and moment restrictions in dynamic panel data models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 115-143, August.
    15. Daron Acemoglu & Suresh Naidu & Pascual Restrepo & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Democracy Does Cause Growth," NBER Working Papers 20004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1995. "Institutions and Economic Performance: Cross-Country Tests Using Alternative Institutional Indicators," MPRA Paper 23118, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Treisman, Daniel, 2000. "The causes of corruption: a cross-national study," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 399-457, June.
    18. Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2003. "Institutions Don't Rule: Direct Effects of Geography on Per Capita Income," NBER Working Papers 9490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Daron Acemoglu, 2005. "Constitutions, Politics and Economics: A Review Essay on Persson and Tabellini's "The Economic Effect of Constitutions"," NBER Working Papers 11235, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
    21. Forssbaeck, Jens & Oxelheim, Lars, 2014. "The Oxford Handbook of Economic and Institutional Transparency," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199917693, June.
    22. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2008. "Distinguished Guest Lecture: The Persistence and Change of Institutions in the Americas," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 282-299, October.
    23. Guerriero, Carmine, 2016. "Endogenous legal traditions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 49-69.
    24. Torsten Persson, 2005. "Forms of Democracy, Policy and Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 11171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    25. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
    26. John W. McArthur & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2001. "Institutions and Geography: Comment on Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson (2000)," NBER Working Papers 8114, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    27. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2006. "De Facto Political Power and Institutional Persistence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 325-330, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Institutions; Constitutions; Economic Growth;

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2017-002. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Manolis Kaparakis). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.