Making Democracy Work: Culture, Social Capital and Elections in China
This paper aims to show that culture is an important determinant of the effectiveness of formal democratic institutions, such as elections. We collect new data to document the presence of voluntary and social organizations and the history of electoral reforms in Chinese villages. We use the presence of village temples to proxy for culture, or more specifically, for social (civic) capital and show that their presence greatly enhances the increase in public goods due to the introduction of elections. These results support the view that social capital complements democratic institutions such as elections.
We thank Ruben Durante, Raquel Fernandez, Luigi Guiso, Paola Giuliano, Naomi Lamoureux, Andrei Shleifer and Jim Snyder for their insights and the participants at the CEPR Conference for Cultural Economics, the Princeton Political Economy Seminar, the Nemmer’s Conference, the NBER Political Economy Workshop, the MIT Political Science Lunch and the Harvard China Politics workshop for their comments. We thank Jaya Wen for excellent research assistance. We acknowledge financial support from NSF Grant 0922087 for the collection of the Village Democracy Surveys (2006, 2011) and from the Yale University EGC Faculty Grant for the 2011 Survey, the National Science Foundation Grant 0922087 and the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Starting Grant Agreement no. 283837. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.