Strengthening property rights is not a good electoral strategy for old, corrupt parties

Somehow I missed a piece in the JDE in September by Alain de Janvrya, Marco Gonzalez-Navarrob, and Elisabeth Sadoulet.  It’s called “Are land reforms granting complete property rights politically risky? Electoral outcomes of Mexico’s certification program” and it finds some really interesting results about property rights and voting patterns in Mexico.  Here is the abstract:

What is the impact on voting behavior of strengthening property rights over agricultural land? To answer this question, we use the 14-year nationwide rollout of Mexico’s land certification program (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 equal to 6.8 percent of its average share of votes over the period. 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 for the benefactor party. We conclude that, in the Mexican experience, engaging in a land reform that strengthened individual property rights over agricultural land was politically advantageous for the right-wing party.

While it’s not surprising that strengthening property rights would increase support for market policies, it is encouraging.

One of the authors, Alain de Janvry, is giving a talk at Berkeley in March that sounds really interesting–which I could go.  The title is “Mexico’s Second Land Reform: Economic, Social, and Political Implications” and here are the details if you will be in the area.