Property Rights for the Poor: Effects of Land Titling

Replication paper
Original publication: Journal of Public Economics
Original researchers: Sebastian Galiani , Ernesto Schargrodsky
Replication plan:

Winter's replication paper

Replication researchers: Paul Winters (with Edward Whitney and Drew B. Cameron)
Current status: Completed Replication Study

The Original Study

Academic theory suggests that well defined property rights are crucial to facilitate the socioeconomic development of the poor. Formal land titles theoretically enable the poor to use their land as collateral for credit, providing them with a valuable insurance and savings tool. However, the impact evaluation of land titling is challenging as the granting of formal titles is usually endogenous to the outcomes of interest. Taking the case of a 1984 land expropriation by the Argentinian State in Buenos Aires to allocate it to squatters who had occupied this area of wasteland in 1981, the authors exploit a natural experiment that ensures that the granting of land titles is exogenous. As 5 of the 13 former owners disputed this decision (and their trial remains in court to this day), the differences in the former owners’ reactions to expropriation provide the authors with an exogenous source of variation in the allocation of land titles. The evaluation uses squatters on those parcels whose owners accepted the state’s decision to form the treatment group, while the squatters on the area that remains under dispute (meaning that they inhabit their parcels without legal titles) as the control group.

The authors identify five variables of interest to assess the impact of land titling on socioeconomic household characteristics: housing investment, household structure, human capital accumulation, access to credit and labour earnings. The authors found significant positive effects for investment housing, household structure and human capital accumulation, confirming the theoretical assumptions behind land titling in these aspects. However, the authors found no effect of land titling on access to credit and labour income.

The Replication

This study seeks to replicate “Property rights for the poor: Effects of land titling,” by Sebastian Galiani and Ernesto Schargrodsky. The original study exploits a unique natural experiment wherein squatters in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina were awarded titles to the land they occupied in an effectively random allocation by the government. The authors’ findings cast doubt on the common assumption that among the poorest of the poor, land titling will lead to an immediate increase in access to, and use of, formal credit mechanisms through collateralization of newly titled land. We intend to replicate the original statistical procedures and to offer alternative measurement and estimation techniques in order to examine the robustness of their results. Among the original reported findings, impacts on female headed households seem to be incompletely understood. Therefore, we also intend to examine the heterogeneity of impact by gender of the household head to add greater clarity to the theory of change, particularly with regard to observed impacts to household fertility decisions, demographics, and educational outcomes.

Replication Plan