Aug 22, 2013

Do Kinship Networks Strengthen Private Property Rights? Evidence from Rural China

This paper finds that the existence of strong kinship networks tends to enhance property rights in rural China by protecting villagers against unwanted government land takings. It then distinguishes kinship networks from other kinds of social networks by showing that their deterrence effect against coercive takings is far more significant and resilient under conditions of prevalent rural-urban migration than deterrence by neighborhood cooperatives and religious groups. Finally, the paper attempts to identify and differentiate between various possible mechanisms behind these effects: It argues that kinship networks protect property rights mainly through enabling repeated social interaction between members, which facilitates collective action against coercive takings. Kinship networks are more effective than neighborhood cooperatives or religious groups at sustaining repeated social interaction over long distances and, therefore, are less affected by rural-urban migration. Altruism between kinsmen, however, does not emerge from the data as a major factor.
More specifically:
We find that stronger kinship networks, measured by the prevalence of active lineage registries (zupu) and ancestral halls (citang) in a village, strongly correlate with lower levels of land taking, even after controlling for potential endogenous variables such as per capita landholding and proximity to urban centers. Because the danger of reverse causation is low here, we argue that kinship networks protected property rights against unwanted land takings. We also find that China’s massive rural-urban migration over the past three decades has eroded the protective effect of kinship networks much less severely than those of neighborhood organizations and religious groups. P. 2.
That is from a paper by Taisu Zhang & Xiaoxue Zhao.

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