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Demographic Pressure and Institutional Change: Village-Level Response to Rural Population Growth in Burkina Faso

Margaret S. McMillan, William A. Masters, Harounan Kazianga

Chapter in NBER book African Successes, Volume I: Government and Institutions (2016), Sebastian Edwards, Simon Johnson, and David N. Weil, editors (p. 103 - 143)
Published in September 2016 by University of Chicago Press
© 2016 by the National Bureau of Economic Research
in Research on Africa

This paper uses historical census data from Burkina Faso to characterize local demographic pressures, including population shocks associated with internal migration after disease eradication in river valleys, and forced repatriation of migrants from Côte d’Ivoire. We combine those data with a new survey of village elders that was designed to document change over time and differences across villages in local public goods provision, market infrastructure, and property rights. We hypothesize that higher local population densities are associated with more collective services and a transition from open-access to regulated land use, offering a village-level test of fundamental hypotheses about social and political change in Africa. Controlling for year and province fixed effects, we find that villages’ variance in population associated with proximity to river valleys and to Côte d’Ivoire is closely correlated with higher levels of public services, infrastructure, religious facilities, and markets; in addition, villagers’ land is more often governed through individual as opposed to familial rights, with more land-market transactions and stronger regulation of villagers’ forest use. Responding to population growth with improved public services and more private property rights is consistent with both scale effects in public good provision, and changes in the scarcity of land.

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