NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Distortionary Effects of Incentives in Government: Evidence from China's "Death Ceiling" Program

Raymond Fisman, Yongxiang Wang

NBER Working Paper No. 23098
Issued in January 2017
NBER Program(s):DEV, LE, POL

We study a 2004 program designed to motivate Chinese bureaucrats to reduce accidental deaths. Each province received a set of ‘death ceilings’ that, if exceeded, would impede government officials' promotions. For each category of accidental deaths, we observe a sharp discontinuity in reported deaths at the ceiling, suggestive of manipulation. Provinces with safety incentives for municipal officials experienced larger declines in accidental deaths, suggesting complementarities between incentives at different levels of government. While realized accidental deaths predict the following year's ceiling, we observe no evidence that provinces manipulate deaths upward to avoid ratchet effects in the setting of death ceilings.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23098

Published: Raymond Fisman & Yongxiang Wang, 2017. "The Distortionary Effects of Incentives in Government: Evidence from China's "Death Ceiling" Program," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 202-218, April. citation courtesy of

 
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