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Does land abundance explain African institutions?

Fenske, James (2011): Does land abundance explain African institutions?

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Abstract

I show that abundant land and scarce labor shaped African institutions before colonial rule. I test a model in which exogenous land quality and endogenous population determine the existence of land rights and slavery. I use cross-sectional data on a global sample of societies to demonstrate that, as in the model, land rights occurred where land quality was high and where population density was greatest. Slavery existed where land was good and population density was intermediate. The model can explain institutional differences across regions, but not within regions. I present suggestive evidence that this is due to institutional spillovers.

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