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This dissertation is a collection of essays that examines the importance of secure property rights institutions. Economists have long noted the importance of secure property rights to promote specialization and the division of labor through voluntary exchange. Private property provides incentives that stimulate entrepreneurship, capital accumulation, and investment that ultimately facilitate economic development. In addition, property rights also provide incentives for the conservation and preservation of resources. Each essay in this dissertation explores a particular aspect of private property rights. This dissertation consists of five chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the dissertation, provides a brief overview of the importance of property rights, and summarizes the main findings of the subsequent chapters. Chapter 2 examines the impact of secure, well-defined property rights on capital formation and economic development across nations. This chapter empirically analyses how the security of property rights affects wealth, collateral, and capital formation. Chapter 3 examines the use of eminent domain with the United States and explores the determinants that explain the varying degree of eminent domain use for private benefit across states in the U.S. Chapter 4 explores the relationship between property rights institutions and environmental quality across nations. Chapter 5 concludes the dissertation and discusses policy implications and areas of future research.