Kin-based institutions and economic development

108 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2022

See all articles by Duman Bahrami-Rad

Duman Bahrami-Rad

Bowdoin College

Jonathan Beauchamp

Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University.

Joseph Henrich

Harvard University; Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

Jonathan Schulz

George Mason University; University of Nottingham - Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics (CeDEx); George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: August 25, 2022

Abstract

Though many theories have been advanced to account for global differences in economic prosperity, little attention has been paid to the oldest and most fundamental of human institutions: kin-based institutions---the set of social norms governing descent, marriage, clan membership, post-marital residence and family organization. Here, focusing on an anthropologically well established dimension of kinship, we establish a robust and economically significant negative association between the tightness and breadth of kin-based institutions---their kinship intensity---and economic development. To measure kinship intensity and economic development, we deploy both quantified ethnographic observations on kinship and genotypic measures (which proxy endogamous marriage patterns) with data on satellite nighttime luminosity and regional GDP. Our results are robust to controlling for a suite of geographic and cultural variables and hold across countries, within countries at both the regional and ethnolinguistic levels, and within countries in a spatial regression discontinuity analysis. Considering potential mechanisms, we discuss evidence consistent with kinship intensity indirectly impacting economic development via its effects on the division of labor, cultural psychology, institutions, and innovation.

Keywords: kin-based institutions, cousin marriage, inbreeding coefficient, cultural evolution, economic development

JEL Classification: D01, J12, J16, N30, Z12, Z13

Suggested Citation

Bahrami-Rad, Duman and Beauchamp, Jonathan and Henrich, Joseph and Schulz, Jonathan, Kin-based institutions and economic development (August 25, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4200629 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4200629

Duman Bahrami-Rad

Bowdoin College ( email )

ME
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.duman-b-rad.com/

Jonathan Beauchamp (Contact Author)

Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University. ( email )

Arlington, VA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://jonathanpbeauchamp.com

Joseph Henrich

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Jonathan Schulz

George Mason University ( email )

Fairfax, VA
United States

University of Nottingham - Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics (CeDEx) ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD
United Kingdom

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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