Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom


Through our Annual Report essays and work on the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World and Economic Freedom of North America reports the Bridwell Institute aims to become a leading research center on the nature of, causes, and consequences of economic freedom. Bridwell Institute faculty choose their own research topics and publication outlets. The Bridwell Institute does not accept funding for contracted research.

  • Annual Reports

    The Bridwell Institute publishes an annual report on its activities—conferences, published writings, hosted speakers, seminars, teaching and media citations. Each annual report includes an essay based on Bridwell Institute research. 


    2021-22 Annual Report

    Sizing Up the Size of Government

    Measuring Economic Freedom Closer to Home

    Two essays by Bridwell Institute researchers examine economic freedom from different perspectives. Ryan Murphy’s “Sizing Up the Size of Government” looks at U.S. public spending, taxation, social safety nets and COVID-19 policies through the lens of the Economic Freedom of the World report. Dean Stansel’s “Measuring Economic Freedom Closer to Home” presents an updated version of his index for U.S. metropolitan areas, finding wide gaps among cities in factors that help determine how fast incomes, jobs and populations grow.

    Click here to see previous Annual reports 


  • Economic Freedom of the World

    EFW 2015

    Since 1996, the Fraser Institute has published the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index.  It measures the degree to which people in a nation are free to pursue their own economic objectives without government taxes and regulations, as well as the extent to which government protects property rights and provides a sound monetary environment.

    The Bridwell Institute's Director Robert Lawson (and Jerome M. Fullinwider Endowed Centennial Chair in Economic Freedom) is a co-author of the Economic Freedom of the World report, with James Gwartney of Florida State University and Joshua Hall of West Virginia University.

    Over the years, this study has found that the nations that score higher on the index tend to be richer and grow faster, and their citizens face less poverty, live longer...  On virtually every measure of the good life, more economic freedom corresponds with better results.  Other research finds economic freedom corresponds with less warfare, greater human rights, more gender equity, less unemployment, improved democracy, more trust, and less corruption. 

    To download the report for free, please visit


  • Economic Freedom of North America

    EFW 2015

    Since 2002, the Fraser Institute has published the Economic Freedom of North America (EFNA) index. It measures the extent to which the policies of individual U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces are supportive of economic freedom, the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of undue restrictions.

    Bridwell Institute Research Associate Professor, Dean Stansel, has been the primary author of that report since 2013, along with Fraser’s Fred McMahon and Jose Torra of Mexico’s Caminos de la Libertad think tank. Research Assistant Professor and Managing Director, Meg Tuszynski, also contributes to that effort.

    Hundreds of papers have been published by independent researchers using the EFNA in their work. Like the even larger volume of research using the country-level Economic Freedom of the World report, the general consensus of that research is that areas with higher levels of economic freedom tend to have better outcomes on a wide variety of measures.

    To download the report for free, please visit

  • Texas Economic Freedom


    The Bridwell Institute developed a research interest in the Texas economy early on, focusing its first two Annual Report essays on the Lone Star State. The Texas Economic Freedom initiative, launched in 2015, expanded our efforts to understand key trends shaping the state’s future. The research involves comparing Texas and its major cities to their counterparts across the United States.


    The Texas Economy

  • United States Metropolitan Area Economic Freedom Index

    U.S. Metropolitan Area Economic Freedom Index

    In 2013, Bridwell Institute Research Associate Professor Dean Stansel (then an economics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University) produced the first local-level economic freedom index, modeled on the Fraser Institute’s state-level Economic Freedom of North America (EFNA) index. Like the EFNA, it measures the extent to which government policies are supportive of economic freedom, the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of undue restrictions, but it focused on U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSA’s) rather than states. That article was published in the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy and is available here.

    Like the country- and state-level research, the research using the local economic freedom index has generally found that areas with higher levels of economic freedom tend to have better economic outcomes.

    In January 2019, Stansel produced an updated and expanded version with nine years of data over five decades for 382 MSA’s. That article is available here. The Reason Foundation also published a version of it in their Policy Study series, available here.

    Since then, new data has become available. In 2022, Stansel updated the index with that new data for an article in the Bridwell Institute’s 2021-2022 Annual Report, available here. The updated dataset is available here.

  • Selected Academic Publications

    • Ryan H. Murphy. 2021. "Plausibly Exogenous Causes of Economic Freedom." Journal of Bioeconomics 23, no. 1: 85-101.
    • Dean, J. and R. Lawson. 2021. “Who Gains from Economic Freedom? A Panel Analysis of Decile Income Levels.” Economics and Business Letters.
    • Lawson, K. and R. Lawson. 2020. “Economic Liberalizations Around the World Since 1970: Shock Therapy Versus Gradualism.” Cato Journal 40(3): 665-83.
    • Lawson, R. 2019. “The Consequences and Causes of Economic Freedom: Adam Smith Award Remarks.” Journal of Private Enterprise 34(3): 1-10.
    • Grier, K, R. Lawson, and S. Absher. 2019. “So You Say You Want a (Rose) Revolution? The Effects of Georgia’s 2004 Market Reforms.” The Economics of Transition and Institutional Change 27(1): 301-23.
    • Murphy, R. H. and O'Reilly, C. "Assessing State Capacity Libertarianism." Cato Journal.
    • Lawson, R., Murphy, R.H., and Powell, B. "The Determinants of Economic Freedom: A Survey." Contemporary Economic Policy.
    • Murphy, R. H. "The Quality of Legal Systems and Property Rights by State: A Ranking and their Implications for Economic Freedom." Journal of Regional Analysis & Policy.
    • Murphy, R. H. "Liberalizing, State Building, and Getting to Denmark: Analyzing Twenty-First Century Institutional Change." Journal of Institutional Economics.
    • Murphy, R. H. and O'Reilly, C. "Applying Panel Vector Autoregression to Institutions, Human Capital, and Output." Empirical Economics.
    • Murphy, R. H. "Governance and the Dimensions of Autocracy." Constitutional Political Economy.
    • Murphy, R. H. "Psychopathy by U.S. State: A Translation of Regional Measures of the Big Five Personality Traits to Regional Measures of Psychopathy." Heliyon.
    • Murphy, R. H. "The State Economic Modernity Index: An Index of State Building, State Size and Scope, and State Economic Power." Economics of Governance.
    • Arif, I., A. Hoffer, D.Stansel, and D. Lacombe. 2020. “Economic Freedom and Migration: A Metro Area-Level Analysis,” Southern Economic Journal, 87, 1, 170-190.
    • Tuszynski, M. and D. Stansel. 2020. “Immigration and State Institutions: Does Region of Origin Matter?”, Cato Journal, 40, 3, 625-664.
    • Lawson, R., and J.R. Clark. “Taxation in the Classical Liberal Tradition,” Review of Austrian Economics
    • Lawson R., and R.H. Murphy. “Economic Freedom and Growth Specification Debate: A Retrospective” Applied Economic Letters
    • Lawson, R., and R.H. Murphy. “Extending the Economic Freedom of the World Index to the Cold War Era,”Cato Journal
    • Murphy, R.H., and T.L. Smith. “Aggregate Demand Shortfalls and Economic Freedom” Review of Austrian Economics 
    • Murphy, R.H., and A. Nowrasteh. “U.S. Immigration Levels, Urban Housing Values, and their Implications for Capital Share,” Economic Affairs
    • Murphy, R.H., and C. O’Reilly. “Exogenous Resource Shocks and Economic Freedom,” Comparative Economic Studies
    • Murphy, R.H., and C. O’Reilly. “Do Institutions Mitigate the Risk of Natural Resource Conflicts?” Contemporary Economic Policy
    • Murphy, R.H., and D. Lee. “An Expressive Voting Model of Anger, Hatred, Harm and Shame.” Public Choice 
    • Murphy, R.H. “Immigration and Its Effects on Economic Freedom: An Empirical Approach” Cato Journal 
    • Murphy, R.H., and R. Gelfond. “A Call for Out-of-Sample Testing in Macroeconomics,” Libertas: Segunda Epoca
    • Murphy, R.H. “The Best Cases of Actually Existing Socialism,” The Independent Review 
    • Tuszynski, M.P., and R.H. Murphy. “Aging Populations and the Size of Government,” Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal Issues Working Paper No. 201802.
    • Lee, D., and J.R. Clark. “Can Behavioral Economists Improve Economic Rationality?” Public Choice
    • Murphy, R.A., and A. Nowrasteh. “The Deep Roots of Economic Development in the U.S. States: An Application of Putterman and Weil,” Journal of Bioeconomics
    • Tuszynski, M.P, and D. Stansel. “Sub-National Economic Freedom: A Review and Analysis of the Literature,” Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy
    • Stansel, D., A. Millsap, and B. Hobbs. “Local Governments and Economic Freedom: A Test of the Leviathan Hypothesis,” Mercatus Working Paper
    • R.A. Murphy. “The Diseconomies of Do-It-Yourself,” The Independent Review 
    • R.A. Murphy. “The Perils of Buying Social Capital Locally,” Journal of Private Enterprise