The Perversion of Land Reform by Landed Elites: Power, Inequality and Development in Colombia

49 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2019

See all articles by Jean-Paul Faguet

Jean-Paul Faguet

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP)

Fabio Sánchez

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics

Marta Villaveces Niño

Universidad del Rosario

Date Written: December 7, 2018

Abstract

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 fell, and development improved. But where land is concentrated in the hands of a rural elite, distributed land was diverted to bigger farms, resulting in fewer small and more large farms, greater land dispersion, and lower levels of development. We show that these effects – positive and negative – flow through political participation, competition, and policy-making. Landed elites use patron-client ties to distort local and national politics to their benefit. Land reform’s secondary effects, on the distribution of power, are more important than its primary effects on the distribution of land.

Keywords: Land reform, inequality, development, latifundia, political competition, Colombia

JEL Classification: Q15, D63, O1, D72

Suggested Citation

Faguet, Jean-Paul and Sánchez Torres, Fabio and Villaveces Niño, Marta, The Perversion of Land Reform by Landed Elites: Power, Inequality and Development in Colombia (December 7, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3309396 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3309396

Jean-Paul Faguet (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+44 207 955 6435 (Phone)
+44 207 955 6844 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.lse.ac.uk/Depts/destin/faguetjp.html

Fabio Sánchez Torres

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics ( email )

Carrera 1a No. 18A-10
Santafe de Bogota, AA4976
Colombia
+57 1 332 4495 (Phone)
+57 1 332 4492 (Fax)

Marta Villaveces Niño

Universidad del Rosario ( email )

CIUDAD UNIVERSITARIA
Bogota, DC
Colombia

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