The collaboration article Informal Institutions, Collective Action, and Public Investment in Rural China, written by Professor Yao Yang, National Development School, PKU and Xu Yiqing, master graduate from National Development School, PKU (Political Science Ph.D. student in Massachusetts Institute of Technology), is accepted and published by top American political science journal American Political Science Review. This article using a panel dataset of more than 200 representative villages in nation in 1986-2006 as samples, studies the surname family as the core of informal institution of village democracy under the influence of public administration, more successfully identifies the informal institution to the formal system of auxiliary function.
Informal Institutions, Collective Action, and Public Investment in Rural China
Abstract: Do informal institutions promote good local governance in environments of weak democratic or bureaucratic institutions? This question is difficult to answer because of the challenges of defining informal institutions, measuring them, and identifying their effects. This paper attempts to address those challenges. We focus on informal institutions – the rules created and enforced by social groups – that could possibly facilitate local public goods provision and explore two mechanisms: (1) informal institutions help local leaders overcome the collective action problem of financing public goods and (2) informal institutions hold local officials accountable by providing extra incentives or better monitoring. Using a panel dataset of 220 Chinese villages from 1986 to 2005, we find that local public goods expenditure increases considerably when an elected village chairperson comes from the two largest family clans in a village and the association is stronger when clans appear to be more cohesive. We interpret these results as evidence that informal institutions of large clans facilitate local public goods provision. In addition, we show that the collective action mechanism is more plausible than the accountability mechanism in the context of rural China. Our finding is robust to alternative explanations, such as more capable leaders, changes of formal electoral rules, and strategic co-optation of the Chinese Communist Party.
Key Words: informal institutions, public goods expenditure, collective action, village elections, accountability