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3ie-LIDC Seminar: The impact of informal institutions on property rights, disputes and investment: Long term experimental evidence from Liberia

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:30 to 14:00
LIDC Upper Meeting Room
Dr Alexandra Hartman

The 3ie-LIDC seminar series ‘What works in international development’ explores key issues in impact evaluation of development interventions. It has been running on a monthly basis since January 2011, attracting a large and diverse audience of academics, policy-makers (predominantly from DFID) and development practitioners (international NGOs such as Save the Children, Oxfam, Sightsavers).

In each seminar one or two researchers present their results of impact evaluations, systematic review or methodological contribution followed by discussion and questions. The seminar is usually held on Wednesday evenings or afternoons and is hosted by LIDC or one of its member colleges in central London (Bloomsbury).

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Informal institutions preserve property rights and manage disputes when formal systems are weak. Changes to informal dispute resolution structures aim to improve bargaining and commitment to limit violence over the long term. Are long term institutional changes feasible, and if so, what are the impacts on property rights and investment? We study a mass education campaign that promoted alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Liberia, where disputes over property rights are common. Three years later land disputes in treated communities are less likely to grow violent. Treated residents report larger farms, suggesting that changes to informal institutions can shift investment, but score lower on indices of property rights security and investment inputs. We find that treatment does not affect all residents equally: politically connected residents report more secure property rights and do not reduce investments. Changes to informal institutions may persist in the long term, but political ties and strong property claims shape who benefits the most.


Dr Alexandra Hartman is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) of Political Science and Public Policy at University College London (UCL). She studies the social origins of violence and how individuals, communities and states construct order. She uses experiments, survey data, and in-depth field research to explore how violence effects individuals’ willingness to help others, how communities manage and protect their natural resources, and the effects of property rights on violence and economic development. She is thankful for the support of The National Science Foundation, Yale University, UNHCR, USAID, DfID, and the Norwegian Refugee Council. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The British Journal of Political of Political Science, The Journal of Peace Research, and The American Political Science Review