The Electoral Impact of Wealth Redistribution: Evidence from the Italian Land Reform
103 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2021
Date Written: January 15, 2021
Governments often implement large-scale redistribution policies to gain enduring political support. However, little is known on whether such policies generate sizable gains, whether these gains are persistent, and why. We study the political consequences of a major land reform in Italy. A panel spatial regression discontinuity design shows that the reform generated large electoral gains for the incumbent Christian Democratic party, and similarly large losses for the Communist party. The electoral effects persist over four decades. Farmers’ grassroots organizations and continued political investment in reform areas (i.e. fiscal transfers and public sector employment) are plausible mechanisms for this persistence. We find less support for other potential explanations, including migration, voters' beliefs, and patterns of economic development.
Keywords: land reform, redistribution, voting, Italy
JEL Classification: P16, Q15, N54, D72
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