Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 501356
Title Formal law and customary change : A lab-in-field experiment in Ethiopia
Author(s) Cecchi, Francesco; Melesse, Mequanint Biset
Source Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 125 (2016). - ISSN 0167-2681 - p. 67 - 85.
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2016.01.006
Department(s) Development Economics Group
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2016
Keyword(s) Customary courts - Ethiopia - Formal law - Lab-in-field experiment - Social norms
Abstract

Do customary courts strategically adapt arbitration outcomes if they face increased competition by the formal law? Through a lab-in-field experiment with villagers and real customary judges in rural Ethiopia, we show that post-arbitration payouts to agents disfavored by the customary system are downwardly biased. Introducing a costly formal law reduces these biases and draws the decisions of customary judges significantly closer to the law. At the same time agents advantaged by the law do not exploit their increased bargaining power. Instead, they make offers that are less advantageous to themselves and, in equilibrium, only a fraction of them make direct use of the formal law. Our results suggest that local customary dispute resolution institutions may have a role to play in shifting preexisting customs toward a desired outcome. In areas where formal legal institutions have limited outreach, the effects of increased competition between formal law and customary legal institutions may rise from changes in the latter, rather than from plaintiffs seeking justice under the rule of law.

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