Rural property rights and migration: Evidence from Ethiopia

Sebastian Kriticos, Salvatore Di Falco

This paper provides evidence that security of ownership over land is of crucial importance to households when deciding whether to send a migrant. The results are particularly relevant to many developing country contexts where property rights over rural land are contingent on the occupant demonstrating productive use of the land. Using a unique farmhousehold panel dataset from the highlands of Ethiopia, this study demonstrates a robust positive relationship between tenure security and migration. The identification strategy relies on the gradual roll-out of a land certification program at the village level, as well as exogenous variation in water availability, a likely trigger of out-migration from agriculture. The results demonstrate that households with tenure certificates are around 15 percent more likely to have a member that has migrated for work. We further document that water scarcity during the growing season encourages out-migration from agriculture, however, droughts during the planting period discourage migration. The findings suggest that migration and the sectoral reallocation of labor can be an important channel through which tenure security affects economic performance.

Event: Land Governance in an Interconnected World_Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty_2018

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Document type:Rural property rights and migration: Evidence from Ethiopia (526 kB - pdf)