Research

Working Paper
Galán, Juan Sebastián. Working Paper. “Tied to the Land? Intergenerational Mobility and Agrarian Reform in Colombia [Job Market Paper]”.Abstract

This study examines the intergenerational impacts of providing land to the rural poor. I use ID numbers to track applicants to the 1968 Colombian agrarian reform and their children in various administrative data. Exploiting discontinuities in the allocation of parcels, I find that the children of recipients exhibit higher intergenerational mobility. In contrast to the view that land would tie them to the countryside, today these children participate more in the modern economy. They have better living standards and are more likely to work in formal and high-skilled sectors. These findings appear driven by a relief of credit constraints that allowed recipients to migrate to urban centers and invest in the education of their children.

Paper
Galán, Juan Sebastián. Working Paper. “Legal Origins of Economic Development in Mexico”.Abstract

This paper investigates the persistent impacts of colonial legal institutions (or Reales Audiencias) in Mexico. Using a spatial regression discontinuity design, I find that areas with stronger colonial law enforcement capacity have experienced higher economic prosperity after Independence. Consistent with a popular Latin American hypothesis, historical data suggests the formal legal system has been more widely used to resolve disputes and conflicts have been less prevalent. Today, citizens exhibit higher trust in the law and the state, indicating a crowding in of norms of rule following. I argue more secure property rights and contracts encouraged financial intermediation and industrialization in the long-run.

In Preparation
Galán, Juan Sebastián. In Preparation. “Property Rights and Rural Prosperity: Lessons from the Colombian Frontier”.Abstract

This project uses discontinuities in the roll out of land titling policies to study the role of property rights in promoting rural development. I link information on more than two hundred thousand farmers living at the Colombian rural frontier in 1980s-1990s with contemporary administrative data. I estimate the causal impacts of receiving formal property rights and explore heterogeneous effects and theoretical mechanisms, including: risk of expropriation, gains from trade and support for financial markets. Finally, I also track the children of a subsample of farmers to characterize the geography of intergenerational mobility among formal and informal owners of land.

Bautista, María Angélica, Juan Sebastián Galán, and James A. Robinson. In Preparation. “Acting Like a State: Evidence from Colombian Paramilitarism”.Abstract

We use the experience of Colombian paramilitary groups as a natural experiment to test and develop new hypotheses about the process of state building. In 2006, the majority of paramilitary groups, made up of hundreds of fronts, demobilized under the Transitional Justice System (Sistema de Justicia y Paz). There is a large variation in the way different fronts used violence, provided public goods, raised taxes, decentralized operations or developed bureaucratic organizations. For the past years we have been collecting front-level data and undertaking in depth fieldwork with one block, the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of the Middle Magdalena (ACMM), to study the state-like behavior of these groups.