Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Do better property rights improve local income?: Evidence from First Nations' treaties

Volume 116, September 2015, Pages 43–56
Regular Article

Do better property rights improve local income?: Evidence from First Nations' treaties


I examine the economic impact of treaties signed by Canadian First Nations.
Treaties are associated to an increase in real income and expansion of extractive industries.
Findings are consistent with the general equilibrium effects of a positive demand shock.


This paper examines the effect of an improvement in property rights on a local economy using the case of First Nations' modern treaties. These treaties are an important institutional reform that clarifies ownership of land and natural resources near Aboriginal communities. Using confidential micro-data, I find evidence of a positive impact of modern treaties on real income. The effect is driven by employment income and spreads across workers in industries not directly affected by the reform. I also find an increase in real wages and housing costs. The effects are similar in neighboring communities outside Indian reserves. These results are consistent with property right reforms creating a positive demand shock that affects the whole local economy. This is a yet understudied mechanism through which better property rights can generate positive local spillovers.


  • Property rights;
  • Institutions;
  • Local development;
  • First Nations;
  • Treaties
The estimates presented here are from Statistics Canada data. However, the views and interpretation expressed here are from the author and do not represent the position of Statistics Canada. Financial support from the SFU/SSHRC Small Research Grant Nr. 631927 is gratefully acknowledged. I am grateful to Christopher Alcantara, Terry Anderson, Jane Friesen, Franque Grimard, Stephen Easton, Alex Karaivanov, Anke Kessler, Chris Ksoll, Krishna Pendakur, Juan Pablo Rud, and seminar participants at SFU, CEA, Univ. of Victoria, and NEUDC for useful comments and suggestions.

Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby V5A 1S6, Canada. Tel.: + 1 778 782 9107.