Engineering Informal Institutions: Long-Run Impacts of Alternative Dispute Resolution on Violence and Property Rights in Liberia

34 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2018 Last revised: 29 Nov 2022

See all articles by Alexandra Hartman

Alexandra Hartman

University College of London

Robert Blair

Brown University; Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Christopher Blattman

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2018

Abstract

Informal institutions govern property rights and disputes when formal systems are weak. Well-functioning institutions should help people reach and maintain bargains, minimizing violence. Can outside organizations engineer improvements and reduce violent conflicts? Will this improve property rights and investment? We experimentally evaluate a UN and civil society mass education campaign to promote alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practices and norms in rural communities, where violent land disputes are common. Prior work showed a fall in violence and unresolved disputes within one year. We return after three years to test for sustained impacts and channels. Treated communities report large, sustained falls in violent disputes and a slight shift towards nonviolent norms. Treated residents also report larger farms, though overall effects on property rights and investments are mixed. Politically-connected residents report more secure property rights while those with fewer connections feel less secure. Sustained social engineering is feasible but politics shapes distributional outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Hartman, Alexandra and Blair, Robert and Blattman, Christopher, Engineering Informal Institutions: Long-Run Impacts of Alternative Dispute Resolution on Violence and Property Rights in Liberia (April 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24482, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3158921

Alexandra Hartman (Contact Author)

University College of London ( email )

29-30 Tavistock Sq
School of Public Policy
London, WC1H 9QU
United Kingdom

Robert Blair

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

111 Thayer Street
Box 1970
Providence, RI 02912-1970
United States

Christopher Blattman

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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