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The impact of experience on how we perceive the rule of law

Benito Arruñada ()

Journal of Institutional Economics, 2020, vol. 16, issue 3, 251-269

Abstract: Experience is a major source of knowledge. Could institutions be improved by eliciting the additional knowledge held by experienced individuals? I show here that in several areas of the law experienced individuals are more critical of institutional quality than inexperienced individuals. Moreover, performance indexes built with experienced subsamples substantially alter country rankings. Assuming no unmeasured confounders, more knowledge arguably leads experienced individuals to revise the more benign view held by the general population, composed mostly of inexperienced individuals. Moreover, experience is a stronger driver than alternative sources of knowledge, including education, which might therefore be reinforcing milder and, arguably, incorrect assessments of institutional quality. After observing how this ‘experience effect’ varies systematically across countries, I conclude by proposing that evaluations of institutional quality pay greater attention to experienced individuals and cautioning against basing inferences on assessments made by the general population.

Date: 2020
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