Other Paper

On the role of families and kinship networks in pre-inustrial agricultural societies: an analysis of the 1698 Slavonian census

Kohler, H.-P., Hammel, E. A.
Rostock (1998)


The institutions of pre-industrial agricultural societies are shaped by the interaction of social structure, environmental constraints and economic incentives. This paper uses the 1698 Slavonian census to illuminate features of social organization and productive activity of an eastern European population under the New Feudalism of the 17th century. We implement tools from historiography, historical ethnology, demography, and economics to identify the prevailing conditions and primary economic constraints of peasant production. In particular we investigate the ability of community or kinship networks to provide substitutes for missing markets in securities and production factors. It is found that kinship networks increase the efficiency of agricultural production by facilitating the exchange of oxen. This confirms reports by contemporary census takers that draft animals were the critical constraint to the expansion of agricultural output. The data do not provide evidence for risk pooling across households, and we conclude that kinship networks fail to reduce the variability of output. This apparent inability of kinship structures to overcome the incentive and monitoring problems of mutual insurance contracts is surprising in a location where extended families and close kin relations were a prevalent social phenomenon. (AUTHORS)
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.