The economic inefficiency of Mexico’s ejido system (rural land that is held communally) led the federal government to implement serious land reform in 1992. [Click here for a video I created for Marginal Revolution University about the creation of the ejido system].
In an interesting forthcoming paper in JEBO called Land Reform and Violence: Evidence from Mexico (here’s an undated working paper version), Tommy Murphy and Martín Rossi study the effects of the 1992 reform on municipal homicides. In motivating the paper, they write that:
“Bandiera (2003) has convincingly argued that the lack of proper enforcement of land rights by the state played a crucial role in the rise of the mafia in 19th century Sicily. But violence not need be channeled only through organized crime, and it is indeed plausible that different land tenure systems lead to extreme forms of violent crime, such as murders.”
Indeed, the authors find for the case of Mexico “that clearly specified and consistently enforced land rights reduce gains from violence, leading therefore to lower levels of violence, as measured by the number of murders.”