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Gender and Land in Mexico

w/ Travis McArthur

Control over land can provide women with an income source, insurance against shocks, and greater bargaining power within the household. Investigation into which policies and economic phenomena promote gender equality in land management is a crucial policy and research agenda. However, it has been hindered by scarcity of data. To shed light on this topic, we transform an administrative dataset of an agricultural subsidy program to build a panel of landholdings for millions of Mexican farmers covering the period 1995 to 2017. The data reveals that the share of land owned, managed, or rented by women increased by 50 percent over this twenty year period, from 15 percent to 23 percent. We identify the causal impact of Mexico’s conditional cash transfer program and its land titling program on women’s control of land by exploiting the staggered rollout of these programs across the Mexican countryside. The conditional cash transfer program raised the share of a community’s land that was controlled by women, but implementation of the land titling program negated this positive effect. Male out-migration, on the other hand, had a substantial role in reallocating land from men to women. Our analysis suggests that the government programs could have been better coordinated to more effectively empower women.