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Why are land reforms granting complete property rights politically risky? Electoral outcomes of Mexico's certification program


We analyze the impact on voting behavior of strengthening property rights over rural land. We use the 14 year nationwide rollout of a land certification program in Mexico (Procede) and match affected communities (ejidos) before and after the change in property rights with voting outcomes in corresponding electoral sections across six federal election cycles. We find that, in accordance with the investor class theory, granting complete property rights induced a conservative shift toward the pro-market party. This shift was strongest where vested interests created larger expected benefits from market-oriented policies as opposed to public-transfer policies. We also find that beneficiaries failed to reciprocate through votes to the benefactor party. We conclude that engaging in a land reform that grants complete property rights is only politically advantageous for a right-wing party, thus providing a rationale as to why so many land reforms done by autocratic governments remain incomplete.

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