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Political manipulation of urban land markets: evidence from China

Henderson, J. Vernon, Su, Dongling, Zhang, Qinghua and Zheng, Siqi (2022) Political manipulation of urban land markets: evidence from China. Journal of Public Economics, 214. ISSN 0047-2727

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2022.104730


Over the last forty years, China has experienced extraordinary growth under output market reforms, but the growth rates are now tapering off. Reforms in factor markets and city governance have been much slower and are viewed as having the potential to yield considerable efficiency gains. In this paper, we explore this possibility, tackling the key issues of local political manipulation of land markets and objectives of local leaders, constraints on the local budgetary process to finance infrastructure and capital market favoritism of certain cities. We use a structural general equilibrium model with trade and migration frictions, based on prefecture level data. We model the political process of land misallocation within cities which drives up housing prices and estimate city-by-city local leaders’ preferences over economic performance versus residents’ welfare. Counterfactual analysis shows that equalizing capital prices across cities, changing the political scorecard for city leaders to reward just maximization of local consumer welfare, and relaxing local budget constraints together increase welfare of consumers and returns to capital by 13.7% and 2.25% respectively. Housing prices would decline in almost all cities; and the reforms would reduce the current excessive, often showcase investment in local public infrastructure by 49% nationally. These reforms would significantly reduce the population of favored cities with low capital costs like Tianjin and Beijing and raise the population of cities with high costs of capital and low local-leader weights on consumer welfare like Shenzhen and Dongguan.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 Elsevier B.V.
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2022 13:57
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2022 13:03

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