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In the land of OZ: designating opportunity zones

James Alm (), Trey Dronyk-Trosper and Sean Larkin ()
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Sean Larkin: Tulane University

Public Choice, 2021, vol. 188, issue 3, No 10, 503-523

Abstract: Abstract The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allowed governors of the fifty states to designate low-income areas as a “Qualified Opportunity Zone” (QOZ), which entitled the investors in these QOZs to significant tax incentives. As a result, each governor’s designation of QOZs provided an opportunity for the governor to introduce investments in low-income communities that would, in principle, increase economic opportunities in these areas. At the same time, each governor’s decision also provided an opportunity for the governor to reward political allies, to buy voter support, and to help business interests. Which of these many factors influenced the designation of QOZs? In this paper we estimate the impact of economic and political variables on the governors’ decisions to choose which areas among all eligible areas would receive QOZ status and which would not. We find that the QOZ selection process overall seems to have been relatively technocratic, with many of the strongest factors that determine QOZ designation being indicators of economic distress such as higher rates of unemployment, welfare receipt, or lower median income, all of which are consistent with the presumed goals of QOZs. Even so, we also find that political factors are significant in QOZ designation, with Democratic representation being negatively associated with QOZ nomination and with political representation by a local politician of the same party as the governor being positively associated with QOZ nomination. Of some note, we also find that areas with higher college attainment are favored.

Keywords: Opportunity zones; Tax incentives; Place-based development policies (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H24 I38 O23 R38 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s11127-020-00848-9

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