The Churches' Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-Networks and Democracy

98 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2016 Last revised: 24 May 2018

Date Written: June 12, 2017


Political institutions, widely viewed as a critical determinant for economic prosperity, vary considerably across societies. This paper tests the hypothesis that extended kin-networks, as characterized by a high level of cousin-marriage, have a detrimental impact on democracy. Consistent with this hypothesis, countries with high cousin-marriage rates are more likely to be autocratic. Two complementary instrumental variable approaches strengthen this finding. In the early medieval ages the Church started to prohibit kin-marriages. Using the variation in the duration and extent of the Eastern and Western Churches’ kin-marriage bans as instrumental variables reveals highly significant point estimates of cousin-marriage on democracy. The second instrument, cousin-terms, strengthens this finding: the estimates are very similar and do not rest on the European experience alone. Exploiting within-country variation in marriage practices and cultural backgrounds of children of immigrants sheds light on the underlying mechanism: kin marriages are negatively associated with political participation and institutional quality. These findings point to the importance of kin-networks for the emergence of inclusive political institutions like democracy.

Keywords: Democracy, Family, Kin-groups, Church, Cousin-Marriage, Institutions

JEL Classification: O10, N20, N30, Z10

Suggested Citation

Schulz, Jonathan, The Churches' Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-Networks and Democracy (June 12, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Schulz (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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