Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 271-303

Do Institutions Cause Growth?

  • Edward L. GlaeserAffiliated withHarvard University
  • , Rafael La PortaAffiliated withDartmouth College
  • , Florencio Lopez-de-SilanesAffiliated withYale University
  • , Andrei ShleiferAffiliated withHarvard University

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We revisit the debate over whether political institutions cause economic growth, or whether, alternatively, growth and human capital accumulation lead to institutional improvement. We find that most indicators of institutional quality used to establish the proposition that institutions cause growth are constructed to be conceptually unsuitable for that purpose. We also find that some of the instrumental variable techniques used in the literature are flawed. Basic OLS results, as well as a variety of additional evidence, suggest that (a) human capital is a more basic source of growth than are the institutions, (b) poor countries get out of poverty through good policies, often pursued by dictators, and (c) subsequently improve their political institutions.

economic development economic growth and aggregate productivity political economy property rights institutions