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property rights, land takings, kinship, social networks, kinship networks, rural China, collective action, reciprocity, altruism, empirical research


This paper finds that the existence of strong kinship networks tends to limit state interference with private property use in rural China by protecting villagers against unwanted government land takings. It then distinguishes kinship networks from other kinds of social networks by showing that their deterrence effect against coercive takings is far more significant and resilient under conditions of prevalent rural-urban migration than deterrence by neighborhood cooperatives and religious groups. Finally, the paper attempts to identify and differentiate between various possible mechanisms behind these effects: It argues that kinship networks protect private property usage mainly through encouraging social reciprocity between kinsmen, which facilitates collective action against coercive takings. Kinship networks are more effective than neighborhood cooperatives or religious groups at sustaining reciprocity over long distances and, therefore, are less affected by rural-urban migration. Altruism between kinsmen, however, does not emerge from the data as a major factor.


This is an author pre-print.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Right of property, China, Altruism, Reciprocity (Commerce), Kinship, Rural conditions, Social networks

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