The Determinants of Human Rights: An Economic Analysis Open Access

Zhong, Lingyun (2011)

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The Determinants of Human Rights: An Economic Analysis
By Lingyun Zhong

Human rights have traditionally been viewed as natural, fundamental, and inalienable. Recently, an innovative economic theory of human rights has proposed examining human rights in a market context, where states supply social contracts, or bundles of rights. Citizens demand rights and choose the state that offers the bundle that best suits their needs, and the market operates efficiently under perfect competition. However, human rights violations occur due to market imperfections, such as migration costs and imperfect information. In this paper, I test the empirical implications of this economic theory, namely whether migration costs, information availability, and education affect levels of physical integrity rights throughout the world. The results align with the theoretical underpinnings and indicate that higher migration costs are correlated with lower levels of physical integrity rights, while greater access to education and information are associated with higher levels of rights. The supportive empirical findings suggest that analyzing human rights through a different theoretical lens may provide new insight into how international organizations may promote human rights in the world.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Data and Variables...8

A. Migration Cost Variables...8

B. Education and Information Variables...12

C. Controls...13

Empirical Model...14


A. Main Regression Model...18

B. Other Measures of Distance...22

C. Country-Fixed Effects...24

D. Regressions by Region...26

E. Random Effects Model...28



Figures and Tables

Figure 1. Weighted Means of Physical Integrity Rights (1981-2007) - World...34

Figure 2. Weighted Means of Physical Integrity Rights (1981-2007) - World (Limited)...34

Figure 3. Weighted Means of Physical Integrity Rights (1981-2007) - Africa...35

Figure 4. Weighted Means of Physical Integrity Rights (1981-2007) - Americas...35

Figure 5. Weighted Means of Physical Integrity Rights (1981-2007) - Asia...36

Figure 6. Weighted Means of Physical Integrity Rights (1981-2007) - Europe...36

Figure 7. Weighted Means of Physical Integrity Rights (1981-2007) - Pacific...37

Table 1. Summary Statistics...38

Table 2. Main Regression Model...39

Table 3. Other Measures of Distance...40

Table 4. Country-Fixed Effects...41

Table 5. Regressions by Region...42

Appendix Table A. Countries by Region...43

Appendix Table B. Random Effects Model...44

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