Authors: Alejandro Abarca y Suráyabi Ramírez.
This article estimates the causal long-term developmental effects of Costa Rica’s constitutional abolishment of its army in 1949 after the 1948 civil war.
This is done by performing synthetic control estimates and analyzing the political history of Costa Rica in the 1940s and 1950s. We find that upon the abolishment of the army, Costa Rica’s annual average per capita GDP growth increased from 1.42% to 2.28% in the 1950-2010 period relative to a counterfactual Costa Rica that did not abolish its army. This implies that Costa Rica doubled its per capita GDP every 30 years rather than every 49. These estimates are robust to different model specifications and we show that this shock is exclusive to Costa Rica in Latin America. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the positive effects associated with this increase in the per capita GDP growth rates have endured over time; namely because the abolition of the army granted a political and institutional context that allowed the country to devote more resources to public spending, which in turn contributed to its long run development. Our case study findings are evidence that committing
to peace and democracy pays off in the long run.