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Litigation and Social Capital: Divorces and Traffic Accidents in Japan

Authors


  • The author gratefully acknowledges the helpful suggestions of the editors, three anonymous referees, Wered Ben-Sade, Tom Ginsburg, Glenn Hoetker, and workshop participants at the University of Lousanne, Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, and the generous financial assistance of the Harvard Law School.

Abstract

Using regression and factor analysis with prefecture-level data, I ask whether Japanese in communities with high levels of “social capital” more readily settle their disputes out of court. Although studies of litigation rates often measure suits per capita, the more appropriate measure may involve suits per “dispute.” We lack information about the number of disputes in many fields, but we do have it for Japanese divorces and traffic accidents—and I focus on those two sets of disputes. Disputes over divorce and traffic accidents differ fundamentally, and social capital does not lower litigation rates among either. I find that: (1) couples in communities with low social capital are more apt to divorce; (2) couples in low-social-capital communities are not more likely to litigate their disputes; (3) couples in communities with more lawyers are not more likely to litigate their divorces; and (4) parties in communities with low social capital are not more likely to litigate their disputes over traffic accidents; but (5) parties in communities with more lawyers are indeed more likely to litigate their disputes over those accidents.

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