Tenure Stability and Environmental Performance: A Study of Chinese Cities

Chun Song, Purdue University


The present study examines the empirical link between tenure stability (the length of the period of time during which local leaders stay in office) and air pollution. Based on theoretical predictions from the political economy literature, we hypothesize that both very short and very long tenures can potentially hinder the design and implementation of air pollution mitigation policies. We test this hypothesis by estimating a model that accommodates a non-linear response in air pollution growth to tenure length. The model is estimated with a rich data set from Chinese cities, including city-level and secretary-level data. Empirical quantification of the effect of tenure length on air pollution is difficult because tenure periods are not randomly assigned, and because a leader’s tenure stability may be affected by performance evaluation that includes measures of air quality. The former results in selection bias, and the latter in endogeneity due to reverse causality. We identify the causal effect of tenure on air quality by combining generalized propensity score with a control function estimator. Results confirm our hypothesis and show that optimal tenure length, in terms of environmental policies, should be longer than five years, while very long tenure is associated with less effective air pollution reduction. These findings reconcile theoretical predictions with empirical evidence. They also shed light on the reasons behind apparently inconsistent findings in previous empirical work.




Sesmero, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Agricultural economics

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