Type: Job Market Paper, 2019
Courts are considered important in the functioning of markets, and yet, there is limited causal evidence showing this. This paper estimates the causal effects of courts effectiveness on formal sector firm outcomes, illustrating ex-post contract enforcement in local credit markets as an important channel. To show this, I construct a novel panel dataset on court-level variables from 6 million trial-level data across 195 district courts in India and exploit quasi-random variation in judge vacancy for causal identification. There are three key implications of this paper. First, reducing marginal judge vacancy reduces court backlog by 6%. Second, this stimulates bank lending in local credit markets through improved liquidity from debt recoveries. Third, this affects credit availability, production, and profitability of firms located within the court’s jurisdiction. The results imply an 8:1 benefit to cost ratio of reducing marginal vacancy.