Paper: Poverty and Land Redistribution

Despite a theoretical literature that promises that land transfers will have large impacts on the well-being of poor households, well-identified empirical evidence on the efficacy of land redistribution is scarce. In an effort to fill this gap, this paper examines South Africa's Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) program. We exploit features of LRAD program implementation to extract exogenous variation in whether, and for how long, applicant households enjoyed land transfers. Binary treatment estimates, which compare treated with untreated households, show that beneficiary households on average experienced a 25% increase in per-capita consumption. Our preferred continuous treatment estimates, which analyze only the subset of treated households, identify the impact time path of land transfers on consumption. These estimates show that living standards initially drop and then, after 3–4 years, rise to 150% of their pre-transfer level. These results are statistically significant and robust to a statistically more conservative identification strategy.

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