Career Incentives of Local Leaders and Crisis Response: A Case Study of COVID-19 Lockdowns in China

38 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2020 Last revised: 5 Jan 2022

See all articles by Qianmiao Chen

Qianmiao Chen

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics

Qingyang Huang

University of California, Berkeley

Chang Liu

Princeton University

Peng Wang

Princeton University

Date Written: August 11, 2020

Abstract

This paper studies the role of local Chinese leaders’ career incentives in decisions regarding large-scale crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Most local leaders were reluctant to impose lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic, because their promotions rely on posting strong numbers for economic growth in their region, while lockdowns can suppress growth. Once the nation’s top leader warned that local leaders who failed to control the disease would be removed from office, many rapidly implemented resolute measures. However, we find that local leaders with larger promotion incentives were still more likely to downplay the virus by avoiding or minimizing lockdowns.

Keywords: COVID-19, Local Government, Career Concern, Lockdown

JEL Classification: D73, H11, P26

Suggested Citation

Chen, Qianmiao and Huang, Qingyang and Liu, Chang and Wang, Peng, Career Incentives of Local Leaders and Crisis Response: A Case Study of COVID-19 Lockdowns in China (August 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3671188 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3671188

Qianmiao Chen

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Qingyang Huang

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Chang Liu (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

Peng Wang

Princeton University ( email )

United States

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