Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China
43 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2016 Last revised: 13 May 2017
Date Written: April 17, 2017
This paper studies how autocratic rule affects social capital. Between 1660-1788, individuals in imperial China were persecuted if they were suspected of holding subversive attitudes towards the state. A difference-in-differences approach suggests that these persecutions led to a decline of 38% in social capital, as measured by the number of charitable organizations, in each subsequent decade. Investigating the long-run effect of autocratic rule, we show that persecutions are associated with lower levels of trust, political engagement, and the under provision of local public goods. These results indicate a possible vicious cycle in which autocratic rule becomes self-reinforcing through a permanent decline in social capital.
Keywords: Social Capital, Institutions, Autocratic Rule, Persecutions, China
JEL Classification: N45, K42, I2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation