Property Rights and Violence in Indigenous Land in Brazil

39 Pages Posted: 15 May 2020

Date Written: April 20, 2020


Brazil holds a large proportion of all indigenous land in the world, much of it in the Amazon. The rights of indigenous people to their land has been formally recognized since colonial times and was significantly strengthened in the 1988 Constitution, providing the legal basis for several efforts to identify, demarcate and title this land. Despite these protections, indigenous rights have been encroached and their land regularly pillaged by an expanding economy. Can stronger property rights prevent the suffering and devastation that have resulted from this process or is this an inevitable side effect of economic development and modernization? In this paper I analyze data on all indigenous lands in Brazil to measure the impact of property rights on land-related violence and murder, controlling for geographical and economic factors. Property rights for indigenous land in Brazil go through a four-stage titling process, providing useful variability for identifying the impact of these rights. Further variation arises from the several land titling programs pursued by the government over several decades, allowing me to separate different levels of property rights security. The results highlight that indigenous land in Brazil covers a wide variety of contexts, peoples, and situations, each posing different challenges. Yet, the evidence shows that, on average, clearer property right can reduce land-related violence.

Keywords: Indigenous Land, Property Rights, Amazon, Violence

JEL Classification: D23, J15,Q24, P14, P48

Suggested Citation

Mueller, Bernardo, Property Rights and Violence in Indigenous Land in Brazil (April 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Bernardo Mueller (Contact Author)

Universidade de Brasilia ( email )

Dept. de Economia
Universidade de Brasilia
Brasilia, DF 70910-900
55 61 981110349 (Phone)
55 61 3349-1303 (Fax)


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