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Natural Disasters, Ethnic Diversity, and the Size of Nations: Two Thousand Years of Unification and Division in Historical China

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  • Qiang Chen

    () (School of Economics, Shandong University)

Abstract

The size of nations matters, but the literature on the subject is long on theory and short on direct econometric testing. Using a unique time series data set spanning the past two millennia, we study the process of unification and division in historical China. The empirical results are consistent with the theory on the size and number of nations. First, frequent famines reduced the number of nations in China because a larger nation could more efficiently ensure the provision of public goods as the cost of such public goods (e.g., disaster relief) rose. Second,increased ethnic diversity was associated with an increased number of nations because smaller nations could better serve a heterogeneous population. Using both annual and decadal data, these results survive a variety of robustness checks after controlling for nomadic attacks and a rich set of climate variables.

Suggested Citation

  • Qiang Chen, 2014. "Natural Disasters, Ethnic Diversity, and the Size of Nations: Two Thousand Years of Unification and Division in Historical China," SDU Working Papers 2014-01, School of Economics, Shandong University.
  • Handle: RePEc:shn:wpaper:2014-01
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    File URL: http://econ.sdu.edu.cn/RePEc/shn/wpaper/2014-05-25-Natural_Disasters_Ethnic_Diversity_and_the_Size_of_Nations_in_Historical_China.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ruixue Jia, 2011. "Weather Shocks, Sweet Potatoes and Peasant Revolts in Historical China," HiCN Working Papers 93, Households in Conflict Network.
    2. Qiang Chen, 2015. "Climate shocks, dynastic cycles and nomadic conquests: evidence from historical China," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(2), pages 185-204.
    3. Shiue, Carol H., 2004. "Local Granaries and Central Government Disaster Relief: Moral Hazard and Intergovernmental Finance in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century China," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 100-124, March.
    4. Ruixue Jia, 2014. "Weather Shocks, Sweet Potatoes and Peasant Revolts in Historical China," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(575), pages 92-118, March.
    5. Carol H. Shiue & Wolfgang Keller, 2007. "Markets in China and Europe on the Eve of the Industrial Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1189-1216, September.
    6. Qiang Chen, 2015. "Climate Shocks, State Capacity and Peasant Uprisings in North China during 25–1911 ce," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 82(326), pages 295-318, April.
    7. Carol H. Shiue, 2002. "Transport Costs and the Geography of Arbitrage in Eighteenth-Century China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1406-1419, December.
    8. N. Lesca, 2011. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00640604, HAL.
    9. McCallum, John, 1995. "National Borders Matter: Canada-U.S. Regional Trade Patterns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 615-623, June.
    10. Friedman, David, 1977. "A Theory of the Size and Shape of Nations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 59-77, February.
    11. Ko, Chiu Yu & Koyama, Mark & Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2014. "Unified China; Divided Europe," MPRA Paper 60418, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Ma, Debin, 2012. "Political Institution and Long Run Economic Trajectory: Some Lessons from Two Millennia of Chinese Civilization," CEPR Discussion Papers 8791, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. C. Dominguez-Pery, 2011. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00740570, HAL.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East

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