Who Wants Property Rights? Conjoint Evidence from Senegal
Why don’t more farmers formalize their land rights? Previous research assumes that households will avail themselves of formal land titles when they are able. The hypothesized benefit of land titling is increase tenure security, but where households lack confidence in state institutions, they may not believe that land titles will be advantageous in reducing expropriation. I use a field conjoint experiment of 1,164 household heads across rural Senegal to understand which attributes affect the perceived likelihood of winning a land dispute. Land titles increase the likelihood of winning a perceived land dispute for all respondents, but the effect is weaker for those who lack confidence in formal institutions. Social proximity to customary elites does not affect these results. A structural topic model shows that where formal titles are not a deciding factors, respondents discuss improvements made to the land when considering potential land disputes. Taken together, this paper shows how external attributes affect households’ confidence of winning land disputes and their eventual take-up of formal land titles.