Institutions and economic development in Brazil

Tiago V. Cavalcanti, André M. Magalhães, José Tavares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates the effects of institutional reforms in Brazil. It first provides a comparative assessment of the level of institutional development of Brazil with other Latin American countries such as Chile and Argentina. It considers institutional indicators on "doing private business", including those related to the start up costs, employment rigidity, the expropriation of private investment and bankruptcy law. In general, Brazil presents a lower level of institutional development than Chile and Argentina. As an example, the number of procedures to start a business in Brazil is roughly twice as large as in Chile. We evaluate the importance of institutional differences on economic development using data for a wide cross-section of countries. As in Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson [Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., & Robinson, J. A. (2001). The colonial origins of comparative development: An empirical investigation. American Economic Review, 91(5), 1369-1398], we use the European mortality rate in the colonial period and the "legal origin" to exploit exogenous variation in the level of institutions. We identify issues where institutional reforms are likely to significantly affect per capita gross domestic product (GDP), the ratio of private credit to GDP and the ratio of investment to GDP. We then construct three indices developed in Tavares [Tavares, J. (2004). Institutions and economic growth in Portugal: a quantitative exploration. Portuguese Economic Journal, 3, 49-79] that measure the potential of institutional reforms by using institutional distance, in our case between Brazil and Chile. The most promising reforms for the Brazilian economy, as far as their effects on output per capita, are, in decreasing order: (i) reducing the number of procedures to open a business; (ii) decreasing the average time involved in insolvency proceedings; (iii) increasing labor market flexibility; and (iv) increase effective creditor's protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-432
Number of pages21
JournalQuarterly Review of Economics and Finance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


  • Brazil
  • Economic development
  • Institutions


Dive into the research topics of 'Institutions and economic development in Brazil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this