Skip to content

Daniel Klerman, Paul G. Mahoney, Holger Spamann & Mark I. Weinstein, Legal Origin or Colonial History?, 3 J. Legal Analysis 379 (2011) (The data and code associated with this article may be found at

Abstract: Economists have documented pervasive correlations between legal origins, modern regulation, and economic outcomes around the world. Where legal origin is exogenous, however, it is almost perfectly correlated with another set of potentially relevant background variables: the colonial policies of the European powers that spread the “origin” legal systems through the world. We attempt to disentangle these factors by exploiting the imperfect overlap of colonizer and legal origin, and looking at possible channels, such as the structure of the legal system, through which these factors might influence contemporary economic outcomes. We find strong evidence in favor of non-legal colonial explanations for economic growth. For other dependent variables, the results are mixed.