Barbed Wire: Property Rights and Agricultural Development

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Barbed Wire: Property Rights and Agricultural Development

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Title: Barbed Wire: Property Rights and Agricultural Development
Author: Hornbeck, Richard A.
Citation: Hornbeck, Richard. 2010. Barbed wire: Property rights and agricultural development. Quarterly Journal of Economics 125(2): 767-810.
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Abstract: This paper examines the impact on agricultural development from the introduction of barbed wire fencing to the American Plains in the late 19th century. Without a fence, farmers risked uncompensated damage by others’ livestock. From 1880 to 1900, the introduction and near universal adoption of barbed wire greatly reduced the cost of fences, relative to predominant wooden fences, most in counties with the least woodland. Over that period, counties with the least woodland experienced substantial relative increases in settlement, land improvement, land values, and the productivity and production share of crops most in need of protection. This increase in agricultural development appears partly to reflect farmers’ increased ability to protect their land from encroachment. States’ inability to protect this full bundle of property rights on the frontier, beyond providing formal land titles, might have otherwise restricted agricultural development.
Published Version: doi:10.1162/qjec.2010.125.2.767
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