The Confucian Clan as a Risk-Sharing Institution: How Pre-Industrial China Became the Most Populous Nation

48 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2021

See all articles by Zhiwu Chen

Zhiwu Chen

University of Hong Kong; Yale University - International Center for Finance; Zebra Capital Management, LLC

Chicheng Ma

The University of Hong Kong

Date Written: June 4, 2021

Abstract

We hypothesize that besides technology and resource expansion, risk-mitigation improvements pushed the Malthusian limits to population growth in pre-industrial societies. During 976-1850 CE, China’s population increased by elevenfold while the Confucian clan emerged as the key risk-sharing institution for members. To test our hypothesis using historical data from 269 prefectures, we measure each region’s clan strength by its number of genealogy books compiled. Our results show that prefectures with stronger clans had significantly higher population density due to better resilience during natural disasters and fewer premature deaths of children. Confucian clans enabled pre-industrial China to sustain explosive population growth.

Keywords: Confucianism, clan, population growth, risk-sharing institution, China

JEL Classification: N35, O43, Z12

Suggested Citation

Chen, Zhiwu and Ma, Chicheng, The Confucian Clan as a Risk-Sharing Institution: How Pre-Industrial China Became the Most Populous Nation (June 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3859796 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3859796

Zhiwu Chen

University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong
China

Yale University - International Center for Finance ( email )

Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States
203-432-5948 (Phone)
203-432-6970 (Fax)

Zebra Capital Management, LLC ( email )

612 Wheelers Farms Road
Milford, CT 06461
United States

Chicheng Ma (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Pokfulam HK
China

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