The Paradox of Land Reform, Inequality and Development in Colombia
Jean-Paul Faguet (LSE)
Paper by Jean-Paul Faguet, Fabio Sánchez and Marta-Juanita Villaveces
Over two centuries, Colombia transferred vast quantities of land, equivalent to the entire UK landmass, mainly to landless peasants. And yet Colombia retains one of the highest concentrations of land ownership in the world. Why? We show that land reform’s effects are highly bimodal. Most of Colombia’s 1100+ municipalities lack a landed elite. Here, rural properties grew larger, land inequality and dispersion fell, and development indicators improved. But in municipalities where such an elite does exist and landholding is highly concentrated, such positive effects are counteracted, resulting in smaller rural properties, greater dispersion, and lower levels of development. We show that all of these effects – positive and negative – flow through local policy, which elites distort to benefit themselves. Our evidence implies that land reform’s second-order effects, on the distribution of local power, are more important than its first-order effects on the distribution of land.
Keywords: Land reform, inequality, development, latifundia, poverty, Colombia.
Jean-Paul Faguet is Professor of the Political Economy of Development at the London School of Economics, and Co-Programme Director of the MSc in Development Management. He is also Chair of the Decentralization Task Force at Columbia University’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue. He works at the frontier between economics and political science, using quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the institutions and organizational forms that underpin development transformations. He has published in the economics, political science, and development literatures, including Is Decentralization Good for Development? Perspectives from Academics and Policymakers (Oxford, 2015), and Governance from Below: Decentralization and Popular Democracy in Bolivia (Michigan), which won the W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize for best political science book of 2012.
Professor Faguet’s current work focuses on historical institutions, inequality and long-term, divergent development outcomes in Colombia and Latin America. More broadly, his fields include political economy, comparative politics, institutional economics, economic development and economic history. Before coming to the LSE he worked for the World Bank in La Paz, Bolivia on health, education, early childhood development and the environment. He trained in both politics and economics at Princeton, Harvard and the LSE, where his dissertation won the William Robson Memorial Prize.