Inheritance Customs and Agricultural Investment

48 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2017

See all articles by Brian Dillon

Brian Dillon

University of Washington

Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago

Date Written: January 18, 2017


This paper examines the connection between widows’ land inheritance rights and land investments in Zambia. We study whether the threat of land expropriation upon widowhood deters households from fallowing, applying fertilizer, and employing labor-intensive tillage techniques. Variation in widow inheritance is based on customary village practices, which we observe in surveys of village leaders. Controlling for possible confounding factors, both OLS and IV estimates show lower levels of land investment by married couples in villages where widows do not inherit. Concern over prospective loss of land by the wives reduces investment in land quality even while the husband is alive.

Keywords: Land Tenure Security, Widowhood, Land Investment, Gender Discrimination, African Development, Farm Productivity

JEL Classification: O13, J16, D23

Suggested Citation

Dillon, Brian M and Voena, Alessandra, Inheritance Customs and Agricultural Investment (January 18, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Brian M Dillon (Contact Author)

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States


Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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