Kinship, Fractionalization and Corruption

58 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2016 Last revised: 18 Oct 2018

See all articles by Mahsa Akbari

Mahsa Akbari

Simon Fraser University (SFU)

Duman Bahrami-Rad

Harvard University

Erik O. Kimbrough

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics

Date Written: October 11, 2018


We examine the roots of variation in corruption across societies, and we argue that marriage practices and family structure are an important, overlooked determinant of corruption. By shaping patterns of relatedness and interaction, marriage practices influence the relative returns to norms of nepotism/favoritism versus norms of impartial cooperation. In-marriage (e.g. consanguineous marriage) generates fractionalization because it yields relatively closed groups of related individuals and thereby encourages favoritism and corruption. Out-marriage creates a relatively open society with increased interaction between non-relatives and strangers, thereby encouraging impartiality. We report a robust association between in-marriage practices and corruption across countries and across Italian provinces. Instrumental variables estimates exploiting historical variation in preferred marriage practices and in exposure to the Catholic Church's family policies provide evidence that the relationship could be causal.

Keywords: corruption, fractionalization, institutions, mating patterns, consanguinity

JEL Classification: D7, J1, K4, N3

Suggested Citation

Akbari, Mahsa and Bahrami-Rad, Duman and Kimbrough, Erik O., Kinship, Fractionalization and Corruption (October 11, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Mahsa Akbari

Simon Fraser University (SFU) ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6


Duman Bahrami-Rad

Harvard University ( email )

11 Divinity Avenue
Culture, Cognition, and Coevolution Lab
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 384-8641 (Phone)


Erik O. Kimbrough (Contact Author)

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics ( email )

One University Dr
Orange, CA 92866
United States

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