Research

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

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

What incentives lead to the formation of states? In this paper we attempt to throw light on this question by analyzing the behavior of the Frente José Luis Zuluaga (FJLZ), a paramilitary group in the department of Antioquia, Colombia led by Luis Eduardo Zuluaga alias "McGuiver". Drawing from several data sources, including extensive fieldwork, we document how the empirical evidence about this group contradicts the most prominent theories on the origins and nature of the state. Amid the absence of the central state and their fight against guerrillas, the FJLZ tried to establish a monopoly of violence, enforced their own written legal system, raised taxes, and provided other public goods, including roads, electricity, schools and houses for the poor. They also had a bureaucratized non-clientelistic organization with functional specialization.

Galán, Juan Sebastián. Working Paper. “The Colonial State and Long-Run Development in Mexico”.Abstract

This paper investigates the persistent effects of the colonial state (or Real Audiencia) in Mexico. In regions further away from its control, Spanish settlers faced weaker accountability to coerce native populations and extract natural resources. Using a spatial regression discontinuity design, I document that regions with weaker colonial state presence exhibit lower historical and contemporary economic prosperity. After Independence, suggestive evidence indicates conflicts were more prevalent in these regions as the state struggled to monopolize violence. Meanwhile, communities (or pueblos) developed norms of parochial cooperation - higher in-group cooperation but lower trust towards the state. I argue this environment weakened property rights in the long-run.

In Preparation
Galán, Juan Sebastián. In Preparation. “Building the Frontier: Property Rights and Intergenerational Mobility in Colombia”.Abstract

This project uses discontinuities in the roll out of land titling policies to study the role of property rights in promoting economic 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 intergenerational effects of receiving formal property rights and explore heterogeneous effects and theoretical mechanisms, including: risk of expropriation, gains from trade and support for financial markets. I also track the children of a subsample of farmers to characterize the geography of intergenerational mobility among formal and informal owners of land.