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Beyond cultural norms: how does historical rice farming affect modern firms' family control?

Chenchen Fan, Mingming Jiang and Bo Zhang

Economica, 2024, vol. 91, issue 363, 770-808

Abstract: The private sector contributes the majority of China's GDP, with family firms responsible for most of the contribution. Prior studies find that firms' family control is influenced by certain cultural norms, such as family ties. This study explores the underlying historical and agricultural roots of these cultural norms that influence modern businesses. Combining a set of high‐quality, nationally representative Chinese firm and household surveys with prefectural data, we first show the positive impact of rice farming on family control of local firms. We establish robust causal inferences by exploring the impact of historical agricultural legacies and discussing alternative measures, spatial autocorrelations, omitted variables, instrumental variables and self‐selection. More importantly, our results demonstrate that the rice cultivation practice enhances the local people's preferences for strong family ties. Instead of claiming a direct role of these cultural traits as in the existing literature, we recast them as cultural mediators and persistent channels through which historical rice farming can shape contemporary corporate structure.

Date: 2024
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