March 2023

IZA DP No. 16047: (De Facto) Historical Ethnic Borders and Land Tenure in Sub-Saharan Africa

We study the role of proximity to historical ethnic borders in determining individual land ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa. Following an instrumental variable strategy, we document that individuals have a lower likelihood of owning land near historical ethnic borders. In particular, the likelihood of owning land decreases by 15 percentage points, i.e., about 1/3 of the mean rate of landownership, for rural migrants who move from 57km (90th percentile) to 2 km (10th percentile) from the border. This result aligns with the view that competition for land is stronger and property rights are weaker close to historical ethnic borders in Sub-Saharan Africa.