Justin J. Hong

Hello! I am a Ph.D. candidate (5th year) in Economics at Boston University. 

Fields of Interest: Development Economics, Political Economy, Public Economics

Contact Information:  

Email: hjihao@bu.edu

Mailing: Department of Economics, Boston University, 

270 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, USA

Working Papers

Leaders' Cultural Beliefs and Development: Evidence from Chinese Mayors (with Y. Zhao) [2024]

 We study the causal impact of leaders' cultural beliefs on economic development. To do so, we exploit enduring spatial superstitions in Chinese society, which associate people with individual-specific inauspicious orientations according to birth time and exogenous astrological rules. We find that municipal zones that are supernaturally unfavorable to mayors experience an average 2 to 3 percent slower GDP growth. This change results from reduced industrial expansion and public good investment, and is more pronounced for mayors from more superstitious hometowns. Misallocation analysis based on 1.8 million firm-level observations suggests such biases likely impede efficiency. In the longer run, having more "treated" years can accumulate into cross-zone disparities. Finally, we show that the role of leader beliefs depends on institutional environments. Collectively, our results shed new light on the idiosyncratic but substantial role of culture in shaping political leadership and macro outcomes.

Presentations: CES (2024), AMES (2024), IAAE (2024)

Corruption and Human Capital Supply for the State [2022]

I study the impact of corruption crackdown on human capital supply for the state, exploiting China's staggered anti-corruption inspections. Using unique applicant data from state organizations, I find that reducing corruption returns induces positive selection for integrity and prosociality into the state sector, without significantly affecting overall ability. These shifts in supply are associated with enhanced performance. Changes in occupational preferences corroborate static talent allocation as the mechanism, in which treated honest types showing higher preferences for state jobs -- even when conditioned on ability and family background. I further document dynamic effects wherein households increase investment in human capital and the integrity of the next generation, which can reinforce allocational effects and generate long-term dependence. Together, these findings highlight reward structures as an important determinant shaping the state's human capacity. 

Presentations: Stanford DevPEC (2022), NEUDC (2022), ASSA Annual Meeting (2023, Poster)

Risk-Taking and Public Leadership: Evidence from Chinese Villages [2021]

Risk aversion can shift leader focus toward addressing constituent interests when incentives for responsiveness are limited, with a potential trade-off between accountability and public entrepreneurship.

Host Favoritism and Talent Selection in Chinese Science Olympiads (with X. Li) [Draft: Feb 2024]

History Education and Identity-Building in Taiwan (with Y. Lyu) 

[*Pre-PhD research: Draft] [Revise & Resubmit at  Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization]

Work in Progress