Friday, September 12, 2008

Iyer and Mauer on Property in American-Occupied Phillippines

The Cost of Property Rights: Establishing Institutions on the Philippine Frontier under American Rule, 1898-1918, is a new paper by Lakshmi Iyer and Noel Mauer of the Harvard Business School. Here is the abstract:
We examine three reforms to property rights introduced by the United States in the Philippines in the early 20th century: the redistribution of large estates to their tenants, the creation of a system of secure land titles, and a homestead program to encourage cultivation of public lands. During the first phase of American occupation (1898-1918), we find that the progress of implementing these reforms was very slow. As a consequence, tenure insecurity increased over this period, and the distribution of farm sizes remained extremely unequal. We identify two primary causes for the slow progress of reform: first, the high cost of implementing these programs was a major factor in reducing take-up. On the other hand, the government was reluctant to evict delinquent or informal cultivators, especially on public lands. This reduced the costs of tenure insecurity. Political constraints prevented the government from subsidizing land reforms to a greater degree.