Landlessness and lack of access to land are often at the root of poverty and social exclusion. International aid agencies have provided considerable resources to improve land registration systems in many developing countries, with the common objective of reducing poverty. The main channels through which land rights reduce poverty is by encouraging investments in land and facilitating land rental transactions. Turns out there is one more channel that needs to be taken into consideration when studying the effects of land certification: migration.
In a recent paper by Alain de Janvry, Kyle Emerick, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, and Elisabeth Sadoulet (2012), the authors analyze the impact of property rights on migration in rural Mexico and show that land certification programs can also lead to increased outmigration from agrarian communities. Assessing the Mexico ejido land certification program which gave out ownership certificates to 3.6 million farmers between 1993-2006, the authors find that households that obtained land certificates were 28% more likely to have a migrant member. At the community level, certificates led to a 5% reduction in population, and the effects were larger in lower land quality environments. Certificates lead to sorting whereby larger famers stay and land-poor farmers leave, particularly in high productivity areas. Despite the outmigration, cultivated land was not reduced because of the program, which is consistent with gains in agricultural labor productivity.
Overall, the evidence shows land certification increases the efficiency of labor allocation across space by inducing low productivity farmers to migrate, while allowing higher productivity farmers to consolidate land. The impact of poverty and social exclusion of such a phenomenon is not clear, but this is something future studies could dig deeper into.