Thursday, August 25, 2011
I've just been reading an interesting article that reports the results of a 2008 study of dispute resolution mechanisms and preferences sponsored by the Supreme People's Court. The investigators distributed 5,518 questionnaires and got back 5,508 effective responses. The distribution covered urban, suburban, and rural areas. No doubt there are many problems with the data; the article doesn't report how the respondents were chosen, and I doubt very much that it was done truly randomly. Such a high response rate, if nothing else, would be quite unusual, I think, among a truly random group of respondents. Anyway, the data are still interesting, even though we shouldn't put more weight on them than they can bear.
One interesting feature is the relatively strong preference for courts over other dispute resolution mechanisms. All respondents expressed a strong preference for trying first to work a dispute out bilaterally or with the aid of an intermediary; quite sensible, and no surprises there. As a second choice, urban and suburban respondents clearly preferred courts over other options; rural residents picked mediation via the villagers' committee.
There's a common-sense explanation for the villagers' stronger preference for mediation relative to urban and suburban respondents: the village is a more stable community where people know each other, and thus mediation is more coercive (and therefore more effective) than it would be in an urban setting. Anyway, here's a chart I worked up using the data. Click on it for the full-size version.
Choice of dispute resolution mechanisms
1st choice on left, 2nd choice on right. Y axis shows percentages.