Liberating Potential? : The Economic Effects of Finnish Crofter Liberation of 1918

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Title: Liberating Potential? : The Economic Effects of Finnish Crofter Liberation of 1918
Author: Lindfors, Teppo
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: As of the 1980s, global poverty has witnessed a serious reduction. In numerous occasions, the reduction in poverty has been connected to an agrarian reform. A land reform is a type of agrarian reform which involves redistribution of land or changes in the legal framework for land administration. A large body of empirical studies have found that land reforms have proven to be a prominent tool in alleviating poverty. In this thesis, I examine the economic outcomes of the Finnish land reform of 1918. The reform enabled tenant farmers, which covered around half of the rural population, to buy their farms with a fraction of the market price. As my identification strategy, I use instrumental variables analysis, exploiting arguably exogenous variation in the regional distribution of tenants. I employ municipal level data from decennial agricultural censuses from 1910 to 1941. I find that the land reform increased capital intensity by around 23% in the two subsequent decades, which correspond to over third of the overall increase. Using a plain stochastic output model, I evaluate that this would signify a 14% increase in output at the farm level. Furthermore, I compute that the reform accelerated the structural transformation of agriculture toward dairy farming by 10 years. These effects are robust to controlling various municipal characteristics, such as natural conditions, population density and wealth. To confirm that the analysis does not simply capture dissimilarities in pre-reform development, I report baseline differences in municipal characteristics by regressing outcomes on the proportion of tenants with a cross-section for 1910. These findings question the traditional view that the Finnish land reform regressed progress in agriculture. They are in line with the evidence on economic benefits of land reforms. As a novel contribution, this thesis is able to show that the effects are persistent. The exact mechanism driving the results could not be distinguished. I suspect, that the causal channel operated either through the farmers' improved incentives or an access to collateralizable assets, both dependent on property rights.
Subject: land reform
crofter liberation
instrumental variables
property rights
Subject (yso): maareformi

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