The Determinants of Open and Closed Borders

Publication Date


Document Type



Charles R. Boehmer & Sergio Peña (2012) The Determinants of Open and Closed Borders, Journal of Borderlands Studies, 27:3, 273-285, DOI: 10.1080/08865655.2012.750950


Why do some states restrict access to citizens from neighboring states? We explain entry restrictions into states by using a theoretical framework that combines the effects of asymmetrical development, democracy, and interstate conflict with a geographic variable that considers interactions based on neighboring urban settlements. We employ passport and visa requirements as a dependent variable. We apply an ordered probit analysis to test our hypotheses about why states open or close their borders to citizens from neighboring states. We also incorporate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as an analytical tool. The results show that the greater the differential in development between two neighboring states, the less likely the richer state will be open to citizens from its poorer neighbor. The presence of urban settlements, enduring peace, and democracy increase the likelihood of border openness between neighboring states, although international trade has no effect on the degree of openness.