DP15679 The Electoral Impact of Wealth Redistribution: Evidence from the Italian Land Reform

Author(s): Bruno Caprettini, Lorenzo Casaburi, Miriam Venturini
Publication Date: January 2021
Keyword(s): Italy, Land reform, redistribution, voting
JEL(s): D72, N54, P16, Q15
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15679

Governments often implement large-scale redistribution policies to gain enduring political support. However, little is known on whether such policies generate sizable gains, whether these gains are persistent, and why. We study the political consequences of a major land reform in Italy. A panel spatial regression discontinuity design shows that the reform generated large electoral gains for the incumbent Christian Democratic party, and similarly large losses for the Communist party. The electoral effects persist over four decades. Farmers' grassroots organizations and continued political investment in reform areas (i.e. fiscal transfers and public sector employment) are plausible mechanisms for this persistence. We find less support for other potential explanations, including migration, voters' beliefs, and patterns of economic development.