Little is known about long term effects of land reform in developing countries. In this paper, we examine the effects of Kenya’s settlement schemes 50 years after their implementation. We focus on the first decade after independence (1963-1972), during which land that was formerly owned by European settlers was redistributed to Kenyan farmers. This policy was a rural development one: smallholders were granted land and title deeds, and may have gained access to start-up loans, irrigation, and marketing cooperatives. We investigate the long-term effects of the land reform. Using geo-localized data from Lukalo et al. (2019) on 120 conventional settlement schemes that allow to precisely identify which parcels were part of the program, we apply a spatial regression discontinuity design. We study two types of borders: i) the border between the settlement schemes and African Land Units (colonial-era “Native reserves”) and ii) the borders between the settlement schemes and other plots of land formerly owned by European settlers. We argue that these boundaries were randomly drawn at the local level. Geographic and pre-treatment characteristics are the same on both sides of these borders. We find that population levels are higher in the settlement schemes than in neighboring areas. However, the provision of schools seems to be on par with population levels, indicating that there is no impact of the reform on levels of this public good in the long run.
(co-authored with Alex Moradi)