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Individualization of Property Rights And Population Pressure (Democratic Republic Of Congo)



This paper investigates how social norms related to land conversion may evolve to accommodate greater scarcity, by taking advantage of data collected in the Equateur Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as historical events that introduced exogenous changes in pressure on the land and in individualization of the rights.

Land scarcity seems to shape the local institutions for land allocation. Specifically, it increases the probability that older generations keep the control over land allocation and decreases the prevalence of situations without land chief. We investigate the within family distributional consequences of these intergenerational shifts in decision making by comparing land access and food security outcomes between households led by brothers of the same sibship. We find that keeping the land allocation institution “distant” from the current generation limits the within family inequality. Conversely, when the oldest brother controls land allocation, he uses his power to his advantage when land scarcity gives him incentives to do so, securing higher food security levels relative to their younger brother. In an environment where 60% of the households declare having missed at least one dinner in the week for lack of food, and where land scarcity is increasing with deforestation, implications of such a mechanism are important for within family inequality.

This EDI Working Paper is based on research for the case study on “Individualization of Property Rights and Population Pressure” in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


  • Sylvie Lambert, Paris School of Economics and INRA
  • Karen Macours, Paris School of Economics and INRA
  • Margaux Vinez, World Bank

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