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Jiangnan Zeng

  • Public Economics, Urban Economics, Labor Economics, Political Economy
Representative Publications

Job Market Paper: Racial Representation, Segregation, and Sorting

Abstract: This paper investigates the impact of racial representation in local government on individual migration decisions, public goods provision, and residential segregation. I have constructed a novel migration dataset that allows me to track individual migration patterns within and across cities based on North Carolina voter registration records. Utilizing data from closely contested mayoral elections and this migration dataset, I establish causal links between the presence of a Black mayor and individual location decisions. The analysis reveals that having a Black mayor leads to a 4% net increase in the population of majority-Black neighborhoods and a 2% rise in white neighborhoods. These findings are corroborated by tract-level data from 120 major U.S. cities. Using the information I construct on individual migration decisions, I am able to further demonstrate that these net population changes are the result of the reduced out-migration of both Black and white residents and a modest increase in movers from outside the city. The net effect of these changes is an increase in racial segregation arising from the increased concentration of Black individuals in majority-Black neighborhoods. Further analysis into the underlying mechanisms shows that Black representation narrows the amenities disparity between majority-Black and white neighborhoods and shifts local media focus towards Black neighborhoods.

Working Paper: Meritocracy and Subnational GDP Manipulation in China

Abstract: What role do local officials' incentives play in regional economic growth? How do local officials behave under promotion pressure? This paper studies the unintended impact of mayors' promotion incentives on regional economics growth and subnational-level GDP manipulation in China. We employ a regression discontinuity design that accounts for age restrictions in deciding promotions for mayors. We find that when GDP performance is prioritized in officials' promotion evaluations (before 2013), mayors' promotion incentives significantly increase the statistical GDP growth rate by 3.4 percentage points. However, their effect on nighttime light and other non-manipulable real economic growth indicators are close to zero. This gap can be attributed to GDP manipulation under empirical framework. The above pattern no longer persists after 2013, when the role of GDP statistics in mayoral promotions was reduced. Our findings indicate that GDP manipulation makes performance-based competition between mayors devolve into a data manipulation game. Further analyses suggest a dynamic pattern of GDP manipulation, and that GDP manipulation hampers officials' accountability. 

Working Paper: Racial Representation in Local Government and Racial Disparities in Policing

Abstract: We draw on statewide data from North Carolina to examine the impacts of racial and ethnic representation in city councils on policing. Specifically, we focus on outcomes of traffic stops; e.g., whether a driver receives a warning or a citation after being stopped. We first document large Black-white and Latino-white disparities in the likelihood of consequence (arrest or citation) after a traffic stop. We then use a difference-in-differences design, focusing on changes following (narrow) elections of nonwhite (rather than white) councilmembers, and find that increased nonwhite council representation significantly reduces Black-white gaps in stops and actions taken after a stop. The magnitude of the reduction is similar with and without officer fixed effects, suggesting that results are largely driven by individual officer-level behavior change rather than a change in the composition of the police force.