Professor Minkler and Professor Prakash’s paper titled “The Role of Constitutions on Poverty: A Cross-National Investigation” has been accepted by the Journal of Comparative Economics. In this paper, they construct and use a new historical data set on economics and social rights from the constitutions of 195 countries and an instrument variable strategy to answer two important questions.
First, do economic and social rights provisions in constitutions reduce poverty, measured as headcount income and health outcomes? Second, does the strength of constitutional language of the economic and social rights matter? Constitutional provisions can be framed either more weakly as directive principles or more strongly as enforceable law.
The results suggest three findings. First, they do not find an association between constitutional rights generally framed and poverty. Second, they do not find an association between economic and social rights framed as directive principles and poverty. Third, they do find a strong negative association between economic and social rights framed as enforceable law and poverty when we use legal origins as our IV. These results persist for indices of constitutional rights and also when they restrict the sample to non-OECD countries. The policy implication is that constitutional provisions framed as enforceable law provide effective meta-rules with incentives for policymakers to initiate, fund, monitor and enforce poverty reduction policies.