When Redistribution Exacerbates Poverty: Evidence from Gamal Abdel Nasser's Land Reforms
Department of Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thursday, April 1, 2021
On-line via Zoom
3:45 pm-5:00 pm
Many post-colonial governments embarked on expansive land redistribution efforts, yet the effect of these programs on local socioeconomic conditions often varied. Using Gamal Abdel Nasser's canonical reforms, we provide evidence that despite dismantling large estates, restrictions on the use of redistributed land served to entrench local patterns of wealth and poverty into the present day. Combining historic spatial data on thousands of `izba, a coercive cotton-growing institution dating from the late 1800s, with contemporary, geo-located survey data on over 50,000 Egyptian families reveals a local but significant effect on wealth that is robust to a variety of specifications as well as an instrumental variables regression. Further analysis shows that restrictions on beneficiaries’ sale and use of former `izba land and a mandatory new co-op system designed to manage agricultural production locked former `izba residents into place and systematically depressed their long-term earning potential.