This paper studies the relationship between land rights and agricultural productivity. Whereas previous studies used proxies for soil quality and instrumental variables to control for the endogeneity of land titles, the data used here include precise soil quality measurements, which in principle allow controlling for the unobserved heterogeneity between plots. Empirical results suggest that formal land rights (i.e., land titles) have no impact on productivity, but that informal land rights (i.e., landowners’ subjective perceptions of what they can and cannot do with their plots) have heterogeneous impacts on productivity.
That’s the abstract of my paper titled “The Productivity Impacts of Formal and Informal Land Rights: Evidence from Madagascar,” which has just been accepted for publication in Land Economics.
The paper is notable for a few things. First, it shows that land titles have no impact on agricultural productivity in Madagascar, a country where the US government had planned on spending $110 million dollars on various initiatives aimed at “assisting the rural population to transition from subsistence agriculture to a market economy,” including via land titling. Continue reading →