The Evolution of Property Rights: State Law or Informal Norms?

Posted: 17 Mar 2012 Last revised: 4 Nov 2013

See all articles by Ryan Bubb

Ryan Bubb

New York University School of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: March 15, 2012


This paper investigates the factors that have shaped the evolution of property rights institutions. Using a regression discontinuity design, I show that the divergent state laws of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire have had little effect on de facto property rights institutions. In contrast, the data show that these states have had large impacts on other economic outcomes. Furthermore, I show that part of the substantial within-country variation in property rights institutions is explained by economic factors. Areas that are more suitable for growing cocoa have a greater prevalence of transfer rights. My findings highlight the importance of non-state sources of norms and shows that these norms do, to some extent, evolve to accommodate the changing needs of society.

Keywords: property rights, institutions

Suggested Citation

Bubb, Ryan, The Evolution of Property Rights: State Law or Informal Norms? (March 15, 2012). Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 56, No. 3, 2013, NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-11, Available at SSRN: or

Ryan Bubb (Contact Author)

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