THE DEMARCATION OF LAND
GARY LIBECAP AND DEAN LUECK
DECEMBER 1, 2020
Does the particular system used for land demarcation affect property rights and land values? In this inaugural webinar of the Coase Institute, Gary Libecap and Dean Lueck present their classic research on the economics of land demarcation, along with their insights for young scholars on how to do research well. They also answer questions from the audience of workshop alumni and faculty.
For their investigation, Libecap and Lueck used a natural experiment in nineteenth-century Ohio to analyze the economic effects of two dominant land demarcation systems: 1) metes and bounds (decentralized system with shapes and boundaries individually defined by local landmarks: trees, rocks, creeks, markings, etc.) and 2) the rectangular system (a centralized grid of uniform square plots, invariant across topography). They found that use of the rectangular system created large benefits in land values initially, and benefits have persisted to the present day. Their results show that transaction costs and networks have important effects on property rights, land values, markets, and economic growth. They have subsequently found similar effects in other locations and time periods around the world. Mary Shirley chairs the program; Alexandra Benham and Lee Benham curate the Q&A session.
About the Speakers
Gary Libecap is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Research Associate at NBER, and Senior Fellow at PERC, and many other affiliations. His research focuses on the role of property rights institutions in addressing the open access losses for natural resources such as fisheries and freshwater, and the role of water markets in encouraging efficient use and allocation.
Dean Lueck is Professor of Economics and Affilate Professor of Law at Indiana University, and Director of the Program on Governance of Natural Resources at the Ostrom Workshop. His research focuses on the economics of contracts and property rights, economic organization, law and economics, and environmental-natural resource economics.
Reference: Gary D. Libecap and Dean Lueck, The Demarcation of Land and the Role of Coordinating Property Institutions, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 119, No. 3 (June 2011), 426-467.