Land Property Rights, Cadasters and Economic Growth: A Cross-Country Panel 1000-2015 CE
Since the transition to agricultural production, property rights to land have been a key institution for economic development. Clearly defined land rights provide economic agents with increased access to credit, secure returns on investment, free up resources used to defend one’s land rights, and facilitate land market transactions. Formalized land records also strengthen governments’ capacity to tax land-owners. Despite a large body of extant micro-level empirical studies, macro-level research on the evolution of formal rights to land, and their importance for economic growth, has so far been lacking. In this paper, we present a novel data set on the emergence of state-administered cadasters (i.e. centralized land records) for 159 countries over the last millennium. We also analyze empirically the association between the development of cadastral institutions and long-run economic growth in a panel of countries. Our findings demonstrate a substantive positive effect of the introduction of cadasters on modern per capita income levels, supporting theoretical conjectures that states with more formalized property rights to land should experience higher levels of economic growth.