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Traditional Governance among Indigenous Communities in North America

Paper Session

Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)

Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Gustavo J. Bobonis, University of Toronto

Local versus Central Governance: Long Run Effects of Federal Oversight over American Indian Reservations

Dustin Frye
,
Vassar College
Dominic Parker
,
University of Wisconsin

Abstract

We study the decentralization of governance across American Indian reservations and the long-run development differences for reservations that were granted less sovereignty through the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). To mitigate selection concerns regarding adoption, we exploit voting results by restricting our analysis to narrowly determined elections. IRA adoption stifled economic development, resulting in lower per capita income, higher inequality, and a less developed gaming sector. Income differences develop within the first decade of adoption and persist throughout the twentieth century. Legislation in recent decades expanded local control to reservation governments and as a result income differences diminish by 2010.

Custom Elections and Local Policies: the case of Canada's First Nations

Fernando Aragon
,
Simon Fraser University
Anke Kessler
,
Simon Fraser University

Abstract

We examine the effect of community-designed electoral codes on Canadian First Nation communities. Even though these custom electoral codes do not revert to traditional forms of governance, they tailor the existing Indian Act system to communities’ needs. The changes range from lengthening term duration to blending traditional and contemporary governance structures. To reduce biases due to selective opt-in, we exploit the timing of the electoral reform and a rich set of controls. Preliminary results suggest some effects in policy outcomes, such as chief remuneration and public spending in band housing, but no sizeable effects on income, population, or employment.

Appropriate Institutions? Traditional Governance and Public Good Provision in Oaxaca, Mexico

Gustavo J. Bobonis
,
University of Toronto
Juan Camilo Chaparro
,
EAFIT
Marco Gonzalez-Navarro
,
University of California-Berkeley
Marta Rubio-Codina
,
Inter-American Development Bank

Abstract

What are the consequences of the adoption of traditional governance institutions among indigenous groups for local government affairs? We study the 1995 Usos y Costumbres traditional governance reform in the state of Oaxaca, which legitimized these structures in a subset of its municipalities. We show that the degree of ethnolinguistic polarization between residents of outlying communities and residents of municipal capitals is an important barrier to the former’s political representation in local elections. In terms of public good provision, villages of ethnic minorities are less likely to gain electric service but more likely to gain sewerage services and public schooling.

Culturally Appropriate Institutions: Commercial Codes on Native American Reservations

Christian Dippel
,
University of California-Los Angeles
Donna Feir
,
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Bryan Leonard
,
Arizona State University
Mark Roark
,
Southern University Law Center

Abstract

Harmonized commercial laws are an essential ingredient of commerce. Uniform commercial code (UCC), adopted by all U.S. states in the early 1950s, is often called “the backbone of American commerce.” In this paper, we study the adoption of commercial codes on Native American reservations since the early 2000s, with a particular focus on the adoption of modified codes that were designed to meet challenges to tribal culture and sovereignty that are inherent in the default UCC. Using an annual panel of night-lights luminosity-data around reservation borders, we find that modified codes were as effective as UCC in stimulating economic development.
Discussant(s)
Randall Akee
,
University of California-Los Angeles
Christian Dippel
,
University of California-Los Angeles
JEL Classifications
  • H1 - Structure and Scope of Government
  • O1 - Economic Development