The Confucian Clan as a Risk-Sharing Institution: How Pre-Industrial China Became the Most Populous Nation
48 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2021
Date Written: June 4, 2021
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
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