From the comments: Kinship networks and U.S. politicians

So kinship necessarily expands the utility and probability of shared interests measurably, a path of study likely threatening to politicians … It might be fun to see a kinship matrix for current U.S. politicians ..?

This is from the always interesting Jack Curtis.

“Blood is Thicker Than Water: Elite Kinship Networks and State Building in Imperial China”

A long tradition in social sciences scholarship has established that kinship-based institutions undermine state building. I argue that kinship networks, when geographically dispersed, cross-cut local cleavages and align the incentives of self-interested elites in favor of building a strong state, which generates scale economies in providing protection and justice throughout a large territory. I evaluate this argument by examining elite preferences related to a state-building reform in 11th century China. I map politicians’ kinship networks using their tomb epitaphs and collect data on their political allegiances from archival materials. Statistical analysis demonstrates that a politician’s support for state building increases with the geographic size of his kinship network, controlling for a number of individual, family, and regional characteristics. My findings highlight the importance of elite social structure in facilitating state development and help understand state building in China – a useful, yet understudied, counterpoint to the Euro-centric literature.

Read the whole thing (pdf).

“Federations, coalitions, and risk diversification”

[…] while we recognize that issues of participation in a coalition involve complex factors, there has been little discussion in the literature from a risk-sharing perspective. It is well-known in financial economics that the pooling of resources and the spreading of risk allows investors to realize a rate of return that approaches the expected rate. We take this to be a natural motive for federation formation among a group of regions. Indeed, the existence of an ancient state in China (the example given in the next section) supports our intuition. It appears that floods, droughts and the ability of a centralized authority to diversify risk paved the way for the unification of China as early as 2000 years ago. Thus, our approach is not empirically irrelevant.

Click the “pdf” tab on the right-hand side, not the “buy PDF” tab.

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