DP16743 Rooted to the Soil: The impact of social housing on population in Ireland since 1911

Author(s): Alan de Bromhead, Ronan Lyons
Publication Date: November 2021
Keyword(s): Ireland, Labourers Acts, migration, population growth, social housing
JEL(s): N34, N94, O18, R23, R38
Programme Areas: Development Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16743

How does housing policy influence the distribution of population? We examine the impact of the world's first large-scale rural public housing scheme on the long-term dynamics of rural population, specifically the case of Ireland's Labourers Acts. We link detailed data on the location of over 45,000 heavily subsidized cottages for agricultural laborers built 1883-1915 in over 200 districts to decennial Censuses between 1841 and 2002. We examine how the density of this social housing, which effectively halved rents for landless laborers, affected subsequent population change and find significant persistence in the effect of this treatment on the population. These findings are from specifications that include other factors plausibly related to future population growth, including initial housing stock, land values and population density, as well as distance to urban centres. A causal interpretation is supported by an assessment of pre-trends, by no effect of cottages authorized but not built and by an IV approach that exploits a 1906 limit on legal costs. Our findings suggest that deep housing policy interventions can have long-lasting effects on population distribution.