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Gender and land ownership in Peru

A research project has recently been started at the Section for International Studies at the Norwegian Institute of Urban and Regional Research (NIBR) named “How formalization closed the gender land gap in Peru and the impact on women’s empowerment”. The project analyses gender relations and land ownership from an economic perspective, applying flexible methodologies of investigation.

Photo: flickr


Nelson Salinas (translated from Spanish)



The project is coordinated by economist and senior researcher Henrik Wiig at NIBR. Daniela Fuentes, economist and current PhD student at the University of Life Sciences (UMB), is also participating in the project on behalf of NIBR. The starting point of her PhD is her own master thesis named "Closing the gender land gap? Woman's land rights in Peru and the effects of the rural land titling project." The rest of the research team is interdisciplinary with anthropologists, sociologists and economists, where the latter constitutes the majority, also including both master students and PhD students.

The focus of the study is the consequences of the Peruvian program Special Land Titling and Cadastre Project (PETT) which was launched in 1992. According to Wiig, the project had no special provision to secure women’s land rights. Apparently, activism of NGOs and rural women’s groups has had an impact on how the PETT program was implemented and finally a change of politics, opening up for joint land titles. The Peruvian state started to implement and grant joint titles approximately from the year 2000.

The evaluation of the PETT program undertaken by the Peruvian investigation centre GRADE (Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo) in 2007, based on a survey of 2034 households that had received titles during the second phase of the programme (from 2000 to 2004), found that 76 percent of all the households with couples had a shared title for at least on of the household’s plots. Based on this dataset, Fuentes (2008) calculated that 56 percent of the household’s plots had joint titles, arguing that this way of calculating was more appropriate in order to find the impacts on gender relations. This represents a significant increase in the incidence of joint ownership. In comparison, an analysis of the Peruvian Living Standards Measurement Survey for 2000 revealed that only 13 per cent of the plots were jointly owned. Hence, the high level of joint titling in the PETT programme is rather revolutionary. The question that remains to be answered is whether issuing an official land title in the name of both spouses has any impact on gender relations.

One objective of the research project is to study the manner in which joint titling was implemented in the Peruvian case. Furthermore, the researchers have proposed to test empirically whether joint titling has led to an increase in women’s participation in household decision-making and in the communities. Additionally, they will explore whether women’s increased participation has led to more efficient use of production resources, such as labour.

The aim is to try to understand whether the process is reproducible, and whether it can be adopted by other developing countries interested in pursuing gender equity. The literature review undertaken by the researchers has showed that in most developing countries agricultural land is the property of men. Landownership is associated with status, power and wealth. Scholars now posit that those who own the property within the household often determine who has more bargaining power within the marriage and make most of the household and farm decisions. Contrary to this power dynamic, a growing empirical body of literature shows that women’s landownership not only enhances their bargaining power, but leads to improvements in household income and other measures of welfare, such as child health and school attendance. Following from this, there is growing interest with policies that promote women’s access to land and other assets.

Economy is the dominating discipline in the investigation. Nevertheless, the researchers also apply qualitative methods. The investigation is directed towards how the households make decisions and the impact on gender relations.
The methodology is based on four different activities. Firstly, they will do an econometric analysis of the GRADE database. The GRADE dataset on 5587 plots is from 2004, and 1052 of these plots were still not titled by the second round of analysis in 2006. GRADE did not find any significant effects on investment, income, land sales and other variables of interest in their analysis applying a method called difference in difference, probably due to the rather short time between the two rounds of data collection.

The first analysis that was done by NIBR was focused on more descriptive analysis and cross-section econometric models (Fuentes 2008).

The first step of the current investigation will be to extend this analysis by introducing more control variables and use more sophisticated estimation techniques to explore further what individual, household and community characteristics can explain the existence of joint titling vs. individual titling in cross econometric models.

Secondly, the project will undertake a household survey in titled and untitled communities. There are few good indicators of intra-household decision-making in the GRADE dataset and other existing Peruvian surveys. The investigators will hence design their own household survey questionnaire and interview different household members to explore the relationship between joint titling and its impact on gender relations and intra-household decision-making. They will also collect data in some eligible communities where PETT has not started the titling process yet. However, such untitled communities are more distant geographically, culturally and socioeconomically since PETT totally covers one district and department at a time.

Thirdly, the investigators will conduct open-ended, in-depth interviews with households and key informants. The information will both serve for the study as such, but also in the process of designing the questionnaire for the survey.

Fourthly, they will undertake experiments. This module represents an additional and supplementary method of analyzing changes in social norms on gender as an effect of land formalization. The experiments will be run by a separately financed doctoral student in order to use the survey data as explanatory variables. Public goods and trust games will demonstrate whether individual property rights affect social norms by increasing generalized trust and reducing collective action. This will constitute a novel contribution as the experiment literature has just started to analyze intra-household relationships.

The project will be implemented in three years, and it is currently in its initial phase.


See project homepage.


Tags: Peru
Published May 3, 2010 7:22 PM - Last modified Oct. 25, 2013 4:39 PM