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Pro‐social leadership under authoritarianism: Provincial leaders’ educational backgrounds and fiscal expenditure structure in China

Ming Lu, Lijun Xia and Jinchuan Xiao

The Economics of Transition, 2019, vol. 27, issue 1, 5-30

Abstract: Authoritarianism is regarded as being unaccountable for people's needs, but few studies have documented how authoritarian countries balance their policy goals. China is known to use a promotion system to incentivize local leaders to develop the economy, while neglecting social spending. This paper documents that more leaders having a liberal arts background have been promoted as top provincial leaders. After carefully ruling out other channels, we provide evidence that the shift of top provincial leaders’ college educational backgrounds from science/technology to liberal arts/social science has increased fiscal expenditure shares on science, education, culture and public health and cut economic construction expenditures accordingly. The finding is mainly driven by the post‐1994 period, when local leaders had stronger incentives for economic growth. This indicates that Chinese top authorities are promoting more pro‐social local leaders when providing pro‐growth incentives in general.

Date: 2019
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