This talk examines the connection between the security of land rights and the level of investment in land productivity in rural Zambia. Using household-level data from 2008, matched to community-level data on inheritance norms, we examine whether the threat of land expropriation upon widowhood deters households from fallowing, applying fertilizer, and employing labor-intensive tillage techniques. Controlling for a large number of confounding factors, we find broadly consistent evidence of reduced land investment by married couples in villages where widows cannot inherit land. Effects are strongest in areas with higher rates of HIV mortality. The implication is that concern over prospective future loss of land by the wives crowds out investment in land productivity, which has potentially large, negative consequences for food security.


Brian Dillon is an Assistant Professor in the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. He received his PhD in Economics from Cornell University, and was a post-doc at the Harvard Kennedy School before joining the UW. His research focuses on food and agricultural markets in developing countries, with particular emphasis on risk, information, and insurance at the farmer level, and on price pass-through and links to international markets at the macro level. Current projects include an analysis of factor market performance using large panel datasets from five African countries, an information experiment with maize farmers in central Tanzania, lab experiments in Kenya and Indonesia to study the elicitation of beliefs in situations of uncertainty, and an analysis of the impact of export restrictions on food prices during the 2008 and 2011 commodity price spikes. He teaches courses on economics, econometrics, and food and agricultural policy.