Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China

43 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2016 Last revised: 13 May 2017

Melanie Meng Xue

Brown University

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: April 17, 2017

Abstract

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

Xue, Melanie Meng and Koyama, Mark, Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China (April 17, 2017). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 16-50. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2856803

Melanie Meng Xue

Brown University ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Box B
Providence, RI 02912
United States

HOME PAGE: http://melaniexue.bol.ucla.edu/

Mark Koyama (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~mkoyama2/About.html

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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