The award was provided by the Democracy & Autocracy section of APSA for his new book: Property Without Rights: Origins and Consequences of the Property Rights Gap.
Daniel Mattingly (chair, Yale University), Sandra Ley (CIDE, Mexico), and Guillermo Trejo (University of Notre Dame) noted that "Across the world, the rural poor have incomplete rights over their most important and valuable asset: land. In Property Without Rights, Michael Albertus examines what he calls the “property rights gap”: “when a government redistributes land but does not grant land beneficiaries property rights over that land” (5). Drawing on new data on land redistribution and titling in Latin America over nearly a century, Albertus brilliantly shows that the property rights gap typically emerges in authoritarian regimes and becomes a powerful mechanism of political control. The book persuasively argues that authoritarian regimes are eager to enmesh the rural poor in relationships of dependence – by redistributing land but only providing partial property rights, autocrats leave the poor reliant on the state for benefits. On the other hand, democracies are significantly less likely to have a property rights gap. Albertus’ book has important implications for the study of democracy, autocracy, and development."