Principal Investigators: Darin Christensen, Francisco Garfias
Country: Colombia

Dates of Intervention: December 2017 - December 2018

Background: Economic theory suggests that secure property rights over land promote economic development and help governments enhance their fiscal capacity. Yet, despite the individual and societal benefits, most land in the developing world is not registered: in Colombia, over half of the land has not been formalized (LGAF, 2013). Our research project asks why, providing experimental estimates of both households' demand for formalization, as well as the effects of property formalization on government revenues and on households' investment and welfare. We partner with a Colombian social enterprise to randomize formalization, as well as randomly subsidize the formalization cost for households currently squatting on private land in Bogotá. We seek to quantify the costs and benefits associated with property formalization for both individuals, as well as local governments, which must decide how much to invest in the bureaucracy required to maintain a land registry and collect property taxes.

Research Design: Due to administrative bottlenecks in the processing of applications, not all households can be formalized at once. Taking advantage of this, we randomize the rollout of property formalization across neighborhoods. This enables us to compare households at endline that vary in whether they have been offered formalization services and also look at how the effects of formalization change over time for treated households, as our randomized rollout provides an instrument for time under treatment.

Hypotheses: The meta-analysis plan identifies primary hypotheses related to (1) citizens relationship to government; (2) household access to public services; (3) tax compliance; and (4) attitudes towards government.