Jeffords Quantifies the Effects of Constitutional Environmental Rights on Environmental Outcomes

Posted on 12/3/2015 1:14:31 PM

In a forthcoming paper, economics professor Chris Jeffords, along with Lanse Minkler of the University of Connecticut, quantifies the effects of having a constitutional environmental rights (CER) provision on environmental outcomes.

Using a repeated cross-sectional instrumental variables approach at the country level, their results suggest that the presence and language of CER provisions is associated with improved environmental outcomes. To capture variation in environmental outcomes, they use Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and one of its components, Ecosystem Vitality (EV). Both EPI and EV range from 0-100, with a higher score indicating greater country-level performance at meeting environmental policy targets/objectives.

Using data from 2012, for example, the presence of a CER provision is associated with a 7.25-point increase (with a standard error of 3.65) above the average EPI score of 54.12, and a 10.97-point increase (with a standard error of 4.94) above the average EV score of 48.23. The results for 2014 are similar which, together with the 2012 results, suggest that having a CER provision can have a positive influence on environmental outcomes. It is important to note, however, that the efficacy of a given CER provision depends not only on the language of the provision but also on the heterogeneous characteristics of a given country at a particular point in time.

These and other results are discussed in further detail in their forthcoming paper: “Do Constitutions Matter? The Effects of Constitutional Environmental Rights Provisions on Environmental Outcomes.” Recently accepted for publication in Kyklos, the preliminary results were previously presented by Jeffords at the 2014 Yale-UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy and at the 2014 Allied Social Science Association Annual Meeting; and by Minkler within a department workshop at the University of Connecticut in 2014.

According to the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’s Economic Journal Rankings (also known as RePEc), Kyklos falls within the top 12 percent of ranked economics journals based on impact factor (194 out of 1720). The journal also carries an “A” ranking in the 2013 Australian Business Deans Council Journal Quality List, has an ISI Journal Citation Report Ranking of 105 of 333 ranked economics journals, and, according to the SCImago Journal Rankings, is presently ranked 101 out of 431 in the Arts and Humanities category and 168 out of 534 in the Economics and Econometrics category.

The full paper is available upon request, and the abstract follows:

We use a novel data set within an instrumental variables framework to test whether the presence and language of constitutional environmental rights influence environmental outcomes. The outcome variables include Yale’s Environmental Performance Index and its components. We employ two stage least squares to account for reverse causality; that is, the possibility that a country which takes steps to protect the environment might also be more likely to constitutionalize environmental rights. Our first stage theory combines constitution norms, opposition costs, and generation effects. Our controls include country income, which means that our study is also related to the Environmental Kuznets Curve literature. We find that constitutions do indeed matter for positive environmental outcomes, which suggests that we should not only pay attention to the incentives confronting polluters and resource users, but also to the incentives and constraints confronting those policymakers who initiate, monitor, and enforce environmental policies.

Department of Economics