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Rights without Resources: The Impact of Constitutional Social Rights on Social Spending

  • Mila Versteeg (University of Virginia)
Thursday 26 October 2017
Diplomacy and Global Affairs Research Seminar Series 2017
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague


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About the lecture

Over the past decades, constitutions around the world have come to protect a growing number of social rights. This constitutionalization of social rights has generally been met with approval from academics, human rights activists, policy-makers, and development economists alike. But despite this widespread support, there is hardly any evidence on whether the inclusion of rights in constitutions actually changes how governments provide social services to their citizens. Mila Versteeg and her co-author take up this question by studying the effect of adopting the constitutional right to education and healthcare on government spending. Using data on 186 countries’ constitutional rights, they employ a variety of empirical tests to examine if the rights to education and healthcare are associated with increases in government spending. Their results suggest that the adoption of these social rights is not associated with statistically significant or substantively meaningful increases in government spending on education or healthcare.

About the speaker

Mila Versteeg is Research Professor of Law at the University of Viriginia Law School. Her research and teaching interests include comparative constitutional law, public international law and empirical legal studies. Most of her research deals with the origins, evolution and effectiveness of provisions in the world’s constitutions. Her publications have, amongst others, appeared in the California Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review, the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Legal Studies, the American Journal of International Law, and the Journal of Law, Economics and Organizations. A number of her works have been translated into Chinese, Portuguese and Turkish.

In 2017, Versteeg was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, which provided her with a $200,000 award to expand her research into the world's constitutions to better understand how constitutional rights are enforced in different countries.

Versteeg earned her B.A. in public administration and first law degree from Tilburg University in the Netherlands in 2006. She earned her LL.M. from Harvard Law School in 2007 and a D.Phil. in socio-legal studies in 2011 from Oxford University, where she was a Gregory Kulkes Scholar at Balliol College and recipient of an Arts and the Humanities Research Council Award.

Prior to joining the Law School, Versteeg was an Olin Fellow and lecturer in law at the University of Chicago Law School. Versteeg previously worked at the U.N. Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute in Turin and at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre in Johannesburg. While at UVA, Versteeg has been a visiting associate professor at the University of Chicago Law School (fall 2013) and Columbia Law School (spring 2016), and a visiting professor at the law schools of Hebrew University, the University of Hamburg (summer 2015) and Tel Aviv University (spring 2017).

About the seminars

Diplomacy and Global Affairs (DGA) Research Seminar Series is a series launched by the Research Group on Diplomacy and Global Affairs at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs. The seminars of internationally acknowledged guest researchers and faculty members deal with current research topics in diplomacy, international relations, global affairs, and political economy broadly conceived and target a broad audience through their interdisciplinary focus.

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