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Building institutions at the micro-level: Results from a field experiment in property dispute and conflict resolution

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  • Christopher Blattman

    ()
    (Columbia University, Department of Politics & SIPA)

  • Alexandra Hartman

    ()
    (Yale University, Department of Political Science)

  • Robert Blair

    ()
    (Yale University, Department of Political Science)

Abstract

How to promote local order and property rights under weak rule of law? States commonly use education campaigns to influence citizen behavior and, ultimately, change generalized practices and norms (or informal institutions). But can education alone influence behavior, let alone “institutions”? In Liberia, property disputes are endemic, but access to formal legal institutions is scant. An intervention trained residents of 68 towns in mediation and advocated informal resolution practices and forums. We compare them to 179 randomized control towns a year later. We see little short-term impact on dispute levels or ferocity, but observe dramatically higher land dispute resolution and satisfaction. Spillovers within towns indicate generalized change - perhaps an early indication of institutionalization. Qualitative work suggests the intervention imparted superior mediation skills, enhanced the legitimacy of informal practices, and deterred defection to competing forums. We argue education can shift practices and norms by helping citizens coordinate on procedures and institutions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Households in Conflict Network in its series HiCN Working Papers with number 128.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:128

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Web page: http://www.hicn.org

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  1. Paul Collier & Pedro C. Vicente, 2008. "Votes and Violence: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nigeria," HiCN Working Papers 50, Households in Conflict Network.
  2. Markus Goldstein & Christopher Udry, 2005. "The Profits of Power: Land Rights and Agricultural Investment in Ghana," Working Papers 929, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  3. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  4. Finnemore, Martha & Sikkink, Kathryn, 1998. "International Norm Dynamics and Political Change," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 887-917, September.
  5. Bardhan, Pranab, 1993. "Analytics of the institutions of informal cooperation in rural development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 633-639, April.
  6. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
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