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The Demarcation of Land and the Role of Coordinating Institutions

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  • Gary D. Libecap

    ()

  • Dean Lueck

    ()

Abstract

This paper examines the economic effects of the two dominant land demarcation systems, metes and bounds (MB) and the rectangular system (RS). Under MB property is demarcated by its perimeter as indicated by natural features and human structures and linked to surveys within local political jurisdictions. Under RS land demarcation is governed by a common grid with uniform square shapes, sizes, alignment, and geographically-based addresses. In the U.S. MB is used principally in the original 13 states, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The RS is found elsewhere under the Land Ordinance of 1785 that divided federal lands into square-mile sections. We develop an economic framework for examining land demarcation systems and draw predictions. Our empirical analysis focuses on a 39-county area of Ohio where both MB and RS were used in adjacent areas as a result of exogenous historical factors. The results indicate that topography influences parcel shape and size under a MB system; that parcel shapes are aligned under the RS; and that the RS is associated with higher land values, more roads, more land transactions, and fewer legal disputes than MB, all else equal. The comparative limitations of MB appear to have had negative long-term effects on land values and economic activity in the sample area.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary D. Libecap & Dean Lueck, 2009. "The Demarcation of Land and the Role of Coordinating Institutions," ICER Working Papers 14-2009, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:icr:wpicer:14-2009
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    File URL: http://www.biblioecon.unito.it/biblioservizi/RePEc/icr/wp2009/ICERwp14-09.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Clay, Karen & Wright, Gavin, 2005. "Order without law? Property rights during the California gold rush," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 155-183, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bessen James, 2009. "Evaluating the Economic Performance of Property Systems," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(3), pages 1037-1061, December.
    2. Antony Dnes & Dean Lueck, 2009. "Asymmetric Information and the Law of Servitudes Governing Land," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 89-120, January.
    3. von Wangenheim Georg, 2011. "Evolutionary Theories in Law and Economics and Their Use for Comparative Legal Theory," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 737-765, December.
    4. Lee J. Alston & Edwyna Harris & Bernardo Mueller, 2009. "De Facto and De Jure Property Rights: Land Settlement and Land Conflict on the Australian, Brazilian and U.S. Frontiers," NBER Working Papers 15264, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Farley Grubb, 2010. "U.S. Land Policy: Founding Choices and Outcomes, 1781-1802," NBER Chapters,in: Founding Choices: American Economic Policy in the 1790s, pages 259-289 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment

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