Health Consequences of Legal Origin

By Cole Scanlon. Harvard University. 

Considerable economic research suggests that the historical origin of a countrys laws is associated with legal rules and economic outcomes. This paper investigates differing public health outcomes of countries with common law legal origin (the British model) and civil law legal origin (the French model). Civil law countries on net have better health outcomes in the categories of infectious disease, immunization, sanitation, contraception, pregnancy, malnutrition, infant mortality, and life expectancy. Although health outcomes vary regionally, the effect of civil law countries having better health outcomes than common law countries holds within regions as well. Civil law countries do not have a greater financial commitment to public health. Instead, better health outcomes in countries with civil law legal origin seems to result from greater decentralization of government funds, higher rates of urbanization, and less ethnic fractionalization in civil law countries.

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