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Property rights are theoretical constructs in economics for determining how a resource is used and owned. Resources can be owned and used by governments, collective bodies, or individuals. Property rights can be viewed as an attribute of an economic good. This attribute has four broad components and is often referred to as a bundle of rights:
In economics, property usually refers to ownership (rights to the proceeds of output generated) and control over a resource or good.
The concept of property rights as used by economists and legal scholars (see property for the legal concept) are related but distinct. The distinction is largely seen in the economists' focus on the ability of an individual or collective to control the use of the good. For example, a thief who has stolen a good would not be considered to have legal (de jure) property right to the good, but would be considered to have economic (de facto) property right to the good.
Property rights to a good must be defined, their use must be monitored, and possession of rights must be enforced. The costs of defining, monitoring, and enforcing property rights are termed transaction costs. Depending on the level of transaction costs, various forms of property rights institutions will develop. Each institutional form can be described by the distribution of rights. The following list is ordered from no property rights defined to all property rights being held by individuals
Open-access property (res nullius) is not owned by anyone. It is non-excludable (no one can exclude anyone else from using it) but may be rival (one person's use of it reduces the quantity available to other users). Open-access property is not managed by anyone, and access to it is not controlled. There is no constraint on anyone using open-access property (excluding people is either impossible or prohibitively costly). Examples of open-access property are the atmosphere or ocean fisheries.
Open-access property may exist because ownership has never been established, because the state has legislated it, or because no effective controls are in place, or feasible, i.e., the cost of exclusion outweighs the benefits. The state can sometimes effectively convert open access property into private, common or public property by legislating to define rights and enforce them."—Kevin Guerin, 
Common property or collective property is property that is owned by a group of individuals. Access, use, and exclusion are controlled by the joint owners. True commons can break down, but, unlike open-access property, common property owners have greater ability to manage conflicts through shared benefits and enforcement.
Private property is both excludable and rival. Private property access, use, exclusion and management are controlled by the private owner or a group of legal owners.
Implicit or explicit property rights can be created by regulating the environment, either through prescriptive command and control approaches (e.g. limits on input/output/discharge quantities, specified processes/equipment, audits) or by market-based instruments (e.g. taxes, transferable permits or quotas).
It has been proposed by Ronald Coase that clearly defining and assigning property rights would resolve environmental problems by internalizing externalities and relying on incentives of private owners to conserve resources for the future. Critics of this view argue that this assumes that it is possible to internalize all environmental benefits, that owners will have perfect information, that scale economies are manageable, transaction costs are bearable, and that legal frameworks operate efficiently.
In 2013 researchers  produced an annotated bibliography on property right literature concerned with two principal outcomes: a) reduction in investors risk and increase in incentives to invest, b) improvements in household welfare; and explored the channels through which property rights affect growth and household welfare in developing countries. They found that better protection of property rights can affect several development outcomes, including better management of natural resources.