Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origins and Implications of Western Corporations

11 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2006

See all articles by Avner Greif

Avner Greif

Stanford University - Department of Economics; Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)


This paper traces the origins and the growth implications of one of the most fundamental institutional changes in history. What constituted this change was the emergence of the economic and political corporations in late medieval Europe. "Corporations" are defined here, consistent with their historical meaning, as intentionally created, voluntary, interest-based, and self-governed permanent associations. The provision of corporation-based institutions to mitigate problems of cooperation and conflict constituted a break from the ways in which institutions had been provided in the past. The particularities of the European family structure - the nuclear family - contributed to the rise of corporations. Corporation-based institutions have been instrumental in leading Europe along a distinct institutional - and hence development and growth - trajectory to the modern period.

Keywords: Family, Corporations, Institutions, Growth, Europe

JEL Classification: O4, O17, N13, N33, D29

Suggested Citation

Greif, Avner, Family Structure, Institutions, and Growth: The Origins and Implications of Western Corporations. American Economic Review, May 2006, Available at SSRN:

Avner Greif (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
650-725-8936 (Phone)

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) ( email )

180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics