Drawing the Legal Family Tree: An Empirical Comparative Study of 170 Dimensions of Property Law in 129 Jurisdictions

Journal of Legal Analysis (2020), Forthcoming

George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 20-09

66 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2017 Last revised: 27 Apr 2020

See all articles by Yun-chien Chang

Yun-chien Chang

Academia Sinica - Institutum Iurisprudentiae (IIAS); Cornell University - Law School

Nuno Garoupa

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: March 22, 2020

Abstract

Traditional comparative private law scholars have a firm grasp of laws in several countries, but rarely of those in more than one hundred countries. Quantitative comparative private law scholars have placed dozens of countries into a legal family genealogy, but not based on a systematic understanding of legal substance around the world. Using a unique, hand-coded data set on 108 property doctrines (transformed into 170 binary variables) in 129 jurisdictions, we ran supervised and unsupervised machine-learning algorithms. Some of our findings confirm the conventional wisdom: French and German property laws are influential; mixed jurisdictions like South Africa and Scotland are one of a kind; common law jurisdictions form a group of their own; and a handful of formerly socialist countries, led by Russia, cluster together. Unlike the prior literature, however, we do not find that East Asian jurisdictions warrant a category of their own; but belong to distant groups. Spain and many Latin American countries form a separate group. Rather than finding a clear-cut common versus civil law division, we observe that the France-inspired group is one supercluster, separate from other jurisdictions.

Keywords: Legal substance, common law, civil law, legal origin, average-linkage clustering, sparse linear discriminant analysis (LDA)

JEL Classification: K11, K00

Suggested Citation

Chang, Yun-chien and Garoupa, Nuno and Wells, Martin T., Drawing the Legal Family Tree: An Empirical Comparative Study of 170 Dimensions of Property Law in 129 Jurisdictions (March 22, 2020). Journal of Legal Analysis (2020), Forthcoming, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 20-09, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2993794

Yun-chien Chang (Contact Author)

Academia Sinica - Institutum Iurisprudentiae (IIAS) ( email )

128 Academia Sinica Rd., Sec. 2
Nankang
Taipei City, 11529
Taiwan

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Nuno Garoupa

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Comstock Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-8801 (Phone)

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