Authoritarian Survival and Poverty Traps: Land Reform in Mexico

50 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2012 Last revised: 7 Oct 2015

See all articles by Michael Albertus

Michael Albertus

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros

Stanford University

Beatriz Magaloni

Stanford University - Department of Political Science

Barry R. Weingast

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 22, 2014

Abstract

This paper examines why governments in underdeveloped countries systematically pursue policies that prevent long-term economic growth. Focusing on the design and implementation of Mexico's massive land redistribution program, we argue that governments do so to improve their chances of political survival. Mexico’s incumbent PRI regime gave peasants communal property under a restrictive and inefficient property rights regime. This form of land reform created dependence upon the regime for survival. We find empirical support for this hypothesis using data from a panel of Mexican states from 1917-1992. Land distribution was higher during election years and where the threat of rural unrest was greater. We also show that economic growth and modernization eroded PRI support over the long term, and, further, that PRI support eroded more slowly in states receiving greater levels of land. Inefficient land redistribution therefore served the PRI’s electoral interests, generating a loyal political clientele; and it contributed to political stability. Nonetheless, this policy carried steep costs: land reform substantially depressed long-term economic growth. These findings hold across various model specifications and instrumental variables estimation.

Keywords: authoritarianism, economic growth, property rights, land reform, Latin America

Suggested Citation

Albertus, Michael and Diaz-Cayeros, Alberto and Magaloni, Beatriz and Weingast, Barry R., Authoritarian Survival and Poverty Traps: Land Reform in Mexico (July 22, 2014). World Development, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2175088 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2175088

Michael Albertus (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Political Science ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Beatriz Magaloni

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-724-7481 (Phone)

Barry R. Weingast

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
650-723-0497 (Phone)
650-723-1808 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.stanford.edu/group/mcnollgast/cgi-bin/wordpress/

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