Macrohistory Seminar – Melanie Xue (UCLA)

Event details

  • | Thursday, November 24
  • 12:15 PM
  • Kaiserplatz 7-9, 4th floor, Room 4.006

Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China

This paper studies the consequences of autocratic rule for social capital in the context of imperial China. Between 1660–1788, individuals were persecuted if they were suspected of possessing disloyal attitudes towards the autocratic ruler. Using a difference-in-differences approach, our main finding is that these persecutions led to an average decline of 38\% in the number of charitable organizations in each subsequent decade. To investigate the long run effect of persecutions, we examine the impact that they had on the provision of local public goods. During this period, local public goods, such as basic education, relied primarily on voluntary contributions and local cooperation. We show that persecutions are associated with lower provision of basic education and likely permanently reduced social capital. This is consistent with what we find in modern survey data: persecutions left a legacy of mistrust and political apathy.

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