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The Electoral Impact of Wealth Redistribution. Evidence from Land Reform in Italy

CIREQ-McGill Seminar 2018-2019
joint with the Department of Economics, McGill University

Leacock 429 (McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke West)

Organizer Francesco Amodio (McGill University)

ABSTRACT

We study the long-term impact of land redistribution on voting. We focus on the 1951 Italian land reform: an extensive program that expropriated estates of large landowners and redistributed their land among poor rural workers. We identify the causal e ffect of the reform on voting with a spatial regression discontinuity design: We exploit the fact that the reform a ffected only selected areas of Italy, and compare changes in voting behavior of municipalities on the two sides of the border of the reform area. The Christian Democrats promoted the reform: after 1951 they gain 4% of the votes in municipalities that redistributed land. The effect persists for over 40 years, and survives the fall of the Christian Democratic party in 1994. We provide suggestive evidence that treated areas became more conservative in mentality and that clientelistic ties helped sustain the gains of the Christian Democrats.

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