Specificity of Control: the Case of Mexico's Ejido Reform

Paul Castañeda Dower (New Economic School)
Tobias Pfutze (Oberlin College)

Abstract: Over the course of 15 years, between 1992 and 2007, Mexico carried out a major land titling program that handed out certificates over usage rights for more than 90% of its communally held land (ejidos). Importantly, formally specifying usage rights through certification can reduce ambiguity in claims to property. This paper analyzes the long run impact of this program using data from 1991 and 2007, focusing on the average length of time land holdings have been certified. In order to control for selection, we take advantage of the program’s peculiar implementation strategy. We find that certification decreases investment in activities that traditionally maintained tenure security. We argue that this encourages movement to non-farm activities, such as migration. While these findings stand alone as measures of outcomes of an important land reform, we view them as evidence that greater specificity improves the coordination of production plans.

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