- Thursday, January 21
- 4:00 PM
The Electoral Impact of Wealth Redistribution: Evidence from the Italian Land Reform
(with Lorenzo Casaburi and Miriam Venturini)
Governments often implement large-scale redistribution policies to gain political support. However, little is known on whether such policies generate sizable gains, whether these gains are persistent, and why. We study the political consequences of a major land redistribution program in Italy. Using a panel spatial regression discontinuity design, we show that the reform generated large electoral gains for the incumbent Christian Democratic party, and similarly large losses for the Communist party. The electoral effects persist over four decades, in which the agricultural sector shrank dramatically. Analysis of fiscal transfers, public sector employment, and referendum outcomes suggests that the reform initiated a repeated exchange: the incumbent party continued promoting the interests of treated towns even after the land redistribution ended. Additional analysis finds less support for other potential mechanisms, including voters’ long-term memory, changes in voters’ beliefs, and mechanical correlation in voting over time.