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Does land abundance explain African institutions?

Fenske, James (2010): Does land abundance explain African institutions?

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Abstract

I show how abundant land and scarce labor shaped African institutions before colonial rule. I present a model in which exogenous land quality and endogenously evolving population determine the existence of land rights, slavery, and polygyny. I use cross-sectional data on pre-colonial African societies to demonstrate that, as in the model, the existence of land rights, slavery, and polygyny occurred where land was most suitable for agriculture, and where population density was greatest. These results are robust to alternative measures of institutions and historical population, and better fit the data than alternative theories of slavery.

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