Abstract

This paper develops a general theory of land inheritance rules. We distinguish between two classes of rules: those that allow a testator discretion in disposing of his land (like a best-qualified rule), and those that constrain his choice (like primogeniture). The primary benefit of the latter is to prevent rent seeking by heirs, but the cost is that testators cannot make use of information about the relative abilities of his heirs to manage the land. We also account for the impact of scale economies in land use. We conclude by offering some empirical tests of the model using a cross-cultural sample of societies.

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