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Three essays on gender, land rights, and collective action in Brazil's rural political economy

Merrilee Mardon, University of Massachusetts Amherst


I explore the hypothesis that women's land rights and participation in collective action are determinants of women's welfare, efficiency and intrahousehold bargaining power in Brazil. The first chapter utilizes data collected in 1999 on household and community gender relations on agrarian reform settlements in six states. The focus of the essay is the gender division of decision-making within dual-headed beneficiary households. Descriptive and regression analysis indicate that women's land rights and their membership in the Landless Rural Worker's Movement (MST) are associated with greater than average rates of joint decision-making and women's autonomous decision-making in the household. The second chapter compares children's school enrollment and attainment rates among dual-headed and lone parent families on agrarian reform land encampments and land settlements, using two datasets collected in 1999. Children of all ages on land settlements are more likely to be in school than children on land encampments, but teenage girls on land settlements are more likely to be in school than boys, and also attain more in school. There is evidence that the combined effects of household membership in the MST and in producer's organizations predict a greater likelihood of school enrollment and a higher rate of attainment for children in all households. Children are predicted to progress more rapidly through school than the norm in lone mother households in which mothers have land rights and are members of the MST. The third chapter contributes a comparison of men's and women's owner-operated farms, utilizing data collected in 1999. Descriptive analysis shows that female-owned and operated farms are less likely to have access to productive inputs and to belong to commercial farmers' associations. Regression analysis indicates that men's membership in commercial farmers' organizations predicts a 30 percent increase in the value of crop yields, but there is no membership premium predicted for female farmers. However, when controlling for other factors, female farm management is associated with a 48 percent increase in the value of crop yields per hectare.

Subject Area

Agricultural economics

Recommended Citation

Mardon, Merrilee, "Three essays on gender, land rights, and collective action in Brazil's rural political economy" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193922.