Street-Level Responsiveness of City Governments in China, Germany, and the United States

32 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2021 Last revised: 8 Dec 2021

See all articles by Ekkehard A. Koehler

Ekkehard A. Koehler

University of Siegen - Department of Economics; Walter Eucken Institute; University of Freiburg - College of Economics and Behavioral Sciences

John G. Matsusaka

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business; USC Gould School of Law

Yanhui Wu

University of Hong Kong; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: August 19, 2021

Abstract

This paper presents evidence from parallel field experiments in China, Germany, and the United States. We contacted the mayor’s office in over 6,000 cities asking for information about procedures for starting a new business. Chinese and German cities responded to 36-37 percent requests; American cities responded to only 22 percent of requests. We randomly varied the text of the request to identify factors that affect the likelihood of receiving a response. American and German cities were more responsive to requests from citizens than foreigners; Chinese cities did not discriminate on this basis. Chinese cities were more responsive to requests from men than women; German cities did not discriminate on this basis and American cities had a slight bias in favor of women. Cities in all three countries were more responsive to requests associated with starting a construction business than a green business, but especially Chinese cities. Chinese cities were more responsive when the mayor was being considered for promotion than after a promotion decision, suggesting the importance of promotion incentives in China, but low responsiveness to green investment suggests limited incentives for environmental improvement. We argue that the response patterns are consistent with simple political economy theories of democracy and autocracy.

Keywords: Responsiveness, bureaucracy, democracy, autocracy, environment, discrimination, China, Germany

JEL Classification: H7, H83, O38, P5, R5

Suggested Citation

Koehler, Ekkehard A. and Matsusaka, John G. and Wu, Yanhui, Street-Level Responsiveness of City Governments in China, Germany, and the United States (August 19, 2021). USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS21-46, USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 21-46, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3907862 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3907862

Ekkehard A. Koehler

University of Siegen - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of Economics
Hoelderlinstr. 3
Siegen, 57068
Germany

Walter Eucken Institute ( email )

Goethestrasse 10
Freiburg, 79100
Germany

University of Freiburg - College of Economics and Behavioral Sciences ( email )

Freiburg, D-79085
Germany

John G. Matsusaka (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

Department of Finance & Business Economics
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-6495 (Phone)
213-740-6650 (Fax)

USC Gould School of Law

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-6495 (Phone)

Yanhui Wu

University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong
China

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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