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The Evolution of Property Rights: State Law or Informal Norms?

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  • Ryan Bubb

Abstract

This paper investigates the factors that have shaped the evolution of property rights institutions. Using a regression discontinuity design, I show that the divergent state laws of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire have had little effect on de facto property rights institutions. In contrast, the data show that these states' laws and policies have had large impacts on other economic outcomes. Furthermore, I show that part of the substantial within-country variation in property rights institutions is explained by economic factors. Areas that are more suitable for growing cocoa have a greater prevalence of land transfer rights. My findings highlight the importance of nonstate sources of norms and show that these norms do, to some extent, evolve to accommodate the changing needs of society.

Suggested Citation

  • Ryan Bubb, 2013. "The Evolution of Property Rights: State Law or Informal Norms?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(3), pages 555-594.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/673208
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Migot-Adholla, Shem, et al, 1991. "Indigenous Land Rights Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Constraint on Productivity?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 5(1), pages 155-175, January.
    2. James Fenske, 2012. "Land abundance and economic institutions: Egba land and slavery, 1830–1914," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 65(2), pages 527-555, May.
    3. Andrei Shleifer & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Rafael La Porta, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 285-332, June.
    4. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
    5. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    6. Ault, David E & Rutman, Gilbert L, 1979. "The Development of Individual Rights to Property in Tribal Africa," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 163-182, April.
    7. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-1250.
    8. Aldashev, Gani & Chaara, Imane & Platteau, Jean-Philippe & Wahhaj, Zaki, 2012. "Using the law to change the custom," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 182-200.
    9. Denis Cogneau & Sandrine Mesplé-Somps & Gilles Spielvogel, 2010. "Development at the border: a study of national integration in post-colonial West Africa," Working Papers DT/2010/12, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    10. Casey B. Mulligan & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "The Extent of the Market and the Supply of Regulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1445-1473.
    11. Markus Goldstein & Christopher Udry, 2008. "The Profits of Power: Land Rights and Agricultural Investment in Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 981-1022, December.
    12. Besley, Timothy, 1995. "Property Rights and Investment Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 903-937, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cai,Yongyang & Selod,Harris & Steinbuks,Jevgenijs, 2015. "Urbanization and property rights," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7486, The World Bank.
    2. Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2014. "On the Ethnic Origins of African Development: Chiefs and Pre-colonial Political Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 10257, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. repec:bla:obuest:v:79:y:2017:i:3:p:291-318 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Douglas A. Irwin, 2014. "Adam Smith's "Tolerable Administration of Justice" and the Wealth of Nations," NBER Working Papers 20636, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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