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Thematic Insight: Can information improve the functioning of courts?

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Countries where courts are weak, and rights are poorly enforced, tend to be countries with worse economic outcomes (Pande and Udry, 2006; Rodrik, 2000, 2005). To better understand the relationship between the functioning of judicial systems and economic growth, Dal Bó and Finan (2020) reviewed available evidence and constructed a framework for understanding the role of institutions in economic development. They note that despite the importance of the courts in resolving disputes, facilitating a healthy business climate, and protecting citizen rights, we have seen very little empirical evidence to show what makes courts function more fairly and quickly.

Dal Bó and Finan systematically outlined open questions to encourage researchers to address these gaps. This helped launch the EDI programme as part of a Path-Finding Paper series. In this brief, we discuss three randomised control trials supported by the Economic Development & Institutions programme since 2016.

These studies help answer the following open questions posed by Dal Bó and Finan:

  1. Does transparency, by heightening accountability, improve public good provision [in this case, judge and court performance]?
  2. What makes information credible and usable?
  3. How do career concerns affect judge incentives?
  4. Beyond judges, what is the role of staff and organisational support in producing timely outcomes, and how can they be improved?
  5. Would the extant results survive randomised controlled trial (RCT) study?
  6. What is the impact of judicial quality on economic activity?

 

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