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Institutions and Economic Development: How Strong is the Relation?

Tiago V. de V. Cavalcanti
Publication Year 
JEL Code 
B40 - General
C21 - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models
O1 - Economic Development
This paper investigates the relationship between institutions and economic development (output per worker). As in Hall and Jones (1999), we find that a 1% improvement in institutions (as we measure them) generates on average a 5% increase in output per worker. However, this relationship is not linear and the data have important heterogeneity. Countries with the same value of institutions have different levels of income per worker. We ask whether the "returns to institutions" are the same across countries conditional on the level of institutions. Using quantile regression methods, we show that for countries at the top of the conditional distribution of international incomes, the "returns to institutions" are lower (around 3.8%), than for countries at the bottom of this distribution (around 6.2%). We show that this result is robust for different model specifications and definitions of institutions. We also provide evidence that, conditional on the level of institutional development, the distribution of output per worker tends to become less disperse as countries improve their institutional framework. In other words, better institutions are fundamental to close the output per worker gap across countries. Finally, we provide the rationale behind the results through a modified version of a Neoclassical Growth Model with time varying wedges, representing policy distortions and institutions.
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