Economic Impact of Giving Land to Refugees

Heng Zhu, J. Edward Taylor, Anubhab Gupta, Mateusz Filipski, Jaakko Valli, Ernesto Gonzalez-Estrarda

Selected paper prepared for presentation at the 2018 Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., August 5-7, 2018


The authors examine the impact of refugee’s access to cultivable land on refugee welfare in Uganda, through a comprehensive survey of refugees in Rwamwanja settlement and local households and businesses living within 15 kilometers of the settlement. Land allocation for refugee families at Rwamwanja settlement is based on availability at the time of arrival. The authors demonstrate that household characteristics are largely uncorrelated with the probability of receiving land upon arrival or allocated plot size. The authors exploit this ‘quasi-random’ nature of land allocation to estimate the impact of an initial land endowment on refugee welfare (as measured by household income, the share of household income that is not aid, quality of dwelling, food security, consumption, and dietary diversity), as well as the spillover effects on income and production in the surrounding host communities. The authors find that refugee households with agricultural land have significantly better welfare and self-reliance. Refugee households with access to cultivable land have significantly higher consumption levels as well as dietary diversity; the initial land-endowment effects on food security are positive but not significant. Moreover, refugee households receiving larger plots of cultivable land have better quality dwellings. The authors also find that there are positive income spillovers within the local economy of the refugee settlement and extending to households and businesses within 15 kilometers of the settlement.

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