Working Paper Series

ICE WP#2024-001

Does the Squeaky Wheel Get More Grease? The Direct and Indirect Effects of Citizen Participation on Environmental Governance in China会哭的孩子有奶吃?公众参与在中国环境治理中的直接与间接作用

December 29, 2023

by Mark Buntaine, Michael Greenstone, Guojun He, Mengdi Liu, Shaoda Wang, Bing Zhang

American Economic Review: Forthcoming


We conducted a nationwide field experiment in China to evaluate the direct and indirect impacts of assigning firms to public or private citizen appeals when they violate pollution standards. There are three main findings. First, public appeals to the regulator through social media substantially reduce violations and pollution emissions, while private appeals cause more modest environmental improvements. Second, public appeals appear to tilt regulators’ focus away from facilitating economic growth and toward avoiding pollution-induced public unrest. Third, pollution reductions by treated firms are not offset by control firms, based on randomly varying the proportion of treatment firms at the prefecture-level.



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