Women's Land Tenure Security and Household Human Capital: Evidence from Ethiopia's Land Certification

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This article examines the impact of Ethiopia's gendered land certification programs on household consumption of healthcare, food, education, and clothing. Ethiopia embarked on a land tenure reform program in 1998, after years of communism during which all land was nationalized. The reform began in Tigray region where land certificates were issued to household heads, who were primarily male. In a second phase carried out in 2003–2005, three other regions issued land certificates jointly to household heads and spouses, presenting variation in land tenure security by gender. Results using household panel data show that joint land certification to spouses was accompanied by increased household consumption of healthcare and homegrown food and decreased education expenditure, compared to household-head land certification. Joint land certification was also accompanied by increased consumption of women's and girls’ clothing, and decreased men's clothing expenditures indicating results may be explained by a shift in the gender balance of power within households. Analysis on the incidence and duration of illness indicates that increased healthcare expenditures after joint land certification may be due to joint certification households seeking more effective treatment than head-only certification households for household members who fell ill or suffered injuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-324
Number of pages15
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Oct 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Africa
  • Ethiopia
  • bargaining power
  • gender
  • intrahousehold resource allocation
  • land reform


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