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From families to formal contracts: An approach to development

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  • Kumar, Krishna B.
  • Matsusaka, John G.

Abstract

This paper develops a theory in which individuals can use one of two types of human/social capital to enforce contracts: "Local capital" relies on families and other personal networks; "market capital" relies on impersonal market institutions such as auditors and courts. Local capital is efficient when most trading is local, but only market capital can support trading between strangers that allows extensive division of labor and industrialization. We show that economies with a low cost of accumulating local capital (say, because people live close together) are richer than economies with a high cost of accumulation when long distance trade is difficult, but are slower to transition to impersonal market exchange (industrialize) when long distance trade becomes feasible. The model provides one way to understand why the wealthiest economies in 1600Â AD, China, India, and the Islamic Middle East, industrialized more slowly than the West. We report an array of historical evidence documenting the pre-industrial importance of family and kinship networks in China, India, and the Islamic world compared to Europe, and the modernization problems linked to local capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Kumar, Krishna B. & Matsusaka, John G., 2009. "From families to formal contracts: An approach to development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 106-119, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:90:y:2009:i:1:p:106-119
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    5. David de la Croix & Matthias Doepke & Joel Mokyr, 2018. "Clans, Guilds, and Markets: Apprenticeship Institutions and Growth in the Preindustrial Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(1), pages 1-70.
    6. Greif, Avner & Tabellini, Guido, 2017. "The clan and the corporation: Sustaining cooperation in China and Europe," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 1-35.
    7. Bulte, Erwin & Kontoleon, Andreas & List, John & Turley, Ty & Voors, Maarten, 2017. "From personalized exchange towards anonymous trade: A field experiment on the workings of the invisible hand," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 313-330.
    8. Alvaro Aguirre, 2017. "Contracting Institutions and Economic Growth," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 24, pages 192-217, March.
    9. Lindner, Ines & Strulik, Holger, 2014. "From tradition to modernity: Economic growth in a small world," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 17-29.
    10. Ken Tabata, 2013. "The Expansion of the Commercial Sector and the Child Quantity-Quality Transition in a Malthusian World," Discussion Paper Series 105, School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University, revised May 2013.
    11. Guirkinger, Catherine & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2019. "The dynamics of family systems: lessons from past and present times," CEPR Discussion Papers 13570, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Matthias Doepke & Joel Mokyr & David de la Croix, 2013. "Apprenticeship and Technological Progress in the Malthusian World," 2013 Meeting Papers 76, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    13. Asano, Koji, 2018. "Trust and Law in Credit Markets," MPRA Paper 90482, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Meijerink, Gerdien & Bulte, Erwin & Alemu, Dawit, 2014. "Formal institutions and social capital in value chains: The case of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(P1), pages 1-12.

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