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The law's majestic equality ? the distributive impact of litigating social and economic rights

Daniel M. Brinks and Varun Gauri

No 5999, Policy Research Working Paper Series from The World Bank

Abstract: Optimism about the use of laws, constitutions, and rights to achieve social change has never been higher among practitioners. But the academic literature is skeptical that courts can direct resources toward the poor. This paper develops a nuanced account in which not all courts are the same. Countries and policy areas characterized by judicial decisions with broader applicability tend to avoid the potential anti-poor bias of courts, whereas areas dominated by individual litigation and individualized effects are less likely to have pro-poor outcomes. Using data on social and economic rights cases in five countries, the authors estimate the potential distributive impact of litigation by examining whether the poor are over or under-represented among the beneficiaries of litigation, relative to their share of the population. They find that the impact of courts varies considerably across the cases, but is positive and pro-poor in two of the five countries (India and South Africa), distribution-neutral in two others (Indonesia and Brazil), and sharply anti-poor in Nigeria. Overall, the results of litigation are much more positive for the poor than conventional wisdom would suggest.

Keywords: Health Monitoring&Evaluation; Judicial System Reform; Population Policies; Gender and Law; Labor Policies (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012-03-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-law and nep-sea
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (4)

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