Beyond Ownership: Measuring Land Rights

May 2021
Cheryl Doss and Vanya Slavchevska (Land Portal)

Advancing women’s land rights is a priority for the international development agenda, yet there is no consensus on which rights should be monitored and reported. Three indicators of women’s property rights are widely used in the literature: each captures a different aspect of women’s land rights. Our recent academic paper explores the extent to which these different rights are held by the same person, using data from six African countries. The first is who owns the land, the second who manages the plot, the third who controls the use of the output. Quantitative evidence from six nationally representative surveys in Africa indicates that the gender gaps in land rights differ, depending on which indicator of land rights is used. They also vary widely across countries depending on whether we consider rights held by a single individual (sole rights) or those held jointly with others (usually a spouse). The quantitative evidence is clear. We should not treat these different rights as interchangeable in our analyses. The rights are frequently not held by the same person.