Convergence and Divergence in Systems of Property Law: Theoretical and Empirical Analyses

29 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2018 Last revised: 13 Mar 2019

See all articles by Yun-chien Chang

Yun-chien Chang

Academia Sinica - Institutum Iurisprudentiae (IIAS)

Henry E. Smith

Harvard Law School

Date Written: December 11, 2018


This article utilizes a unique data set of property laws in 119 jurisdictions in the world to test convergence/divergence theories in comparative property law. Our theory predicts that first, the structure of property law among all jurisdictions in the world will converge, or is similar since some time in the distant past, as they all face the same, positive transaction costs in delineating property rights. Second, our theory posits that the style of property law will tend to converge when the doctrines in question are isolated, but diverge when they are interconnected. Our data and descriptive analysis support the theory. Doctrines regarding possession, sales, condominium, tenancy in common, and limited property rights serve as prominent examples.

Keywords: numerus clausus principle, tenancy in common, possession, sales, condominium

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Chang, Yun-chien and Smith, Henry E., Convergence and Divergence in Systems of Property Law: Theoretical and Empirical Analyses (December 11, 2018). Southern California Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 4, 2019, NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 19-03, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 19-01, Available at SSRN:

Yun-chien Chang (Contact Author)

Academia Sinica - Institutum Iurisprudentiae (IIAS) ( email )

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

Henry E. Smith

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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