This paper examines the statistical importance of governance infrastructure as a determinant of US foreign direct investment (FDI). In broad terms, governance infrastructure represents attributes of legislation, regulation, and legal systems that condition freedom of transacting, security of property rights, and transparency of government and legal processes. Our econometric analysis uses a two-stage estimation procedure. In the first stage, the probability that a country is an FDI recipient is estimated. The results indicate that countries that fail to achieve a minimum threshold of effective governance are unlikely to receive any US FDI. Countries that receive no US FDI are typically countries that do not promote free and transparent markets, that have ineffective governments, and that often have legal systems that are not rooted in English common law. In the second stage, the analysis is restricted to those countries that did receive FDI flows. The estimated equations focus on the determinants of the amount of FDI received. Given that a country is a recipient of US FDI, governance infrastructure – including the nature of the legal system – is an important determinant of the amount received. Journal of International Business Studies (2003) 34, 19–39. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400001
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