DP12818 Property rights on First Nations' reserve land

Author(s): Fernando Aragon, Anke Kessler
Publication Date: March 2018
Keyword(s): economic development, First Nations, institutions, Property rights
JEL(s): O12, O43, P48, R14
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12818

This paper examines the economic effects of existing private property rights on First Nations' reserves. We focus on three forms of land tenure regimes: lawful possession, designated land, and permits. These land regimes have been used to create individual land holdings, and grant secure and transferable rights of use of reserve land to band and non-band members. Using confidential Census micro-data and rich administrative data, we find evidence of improvements in home ownership and housing conditions, as well as increments in band's public spending. However, we find no significant impact on Aboriginal household income nor employment outcomes. Instead, we document that individual land holdings are associated with sizeable increases in the non-Aboriginal population. Our findings suggest that some caution is warranted when discussing the potential economic benefits of property right reforms for First Nations' communities.