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

Superstitious Leaders and Economic Development: Evidence from Chinese Mayors (with Y. Zhao) [2024]

From Emperor Augustus to President Reagan, beliefs such as superstitions are said to play substantial roles in leadership across contexts. Yet, we lack evidence on the economic costs of such widespread phenomena.  

This paper studies the economic impacts of leaders' cultural beliefs in China, exploiting enduring individual-specific spatial superstitions "Feng-shui" in East Asia (Link: Trump and Feng-shui in the U.S.). 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 allocative efficiency. In the longer run, having more "treated" years can accumulate into cross-zone disparities. Finally, we find the role of leader beliefs depends on institutional environments: it is more pronounced when government involvement in the economy is high and subordinate autonomy is limited; yet less institutional treatment such as ideological training of officials has no significant mitigating effects. 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  [R&R at  Journal of Labor Economics]

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 anti-corruption induces positive selection for integrity and prosociality into the state sector, without significantly affecting overall ability. These shifts in supply are associated with enhanced work performance. Changes in occupational preferences corroborate static talent allocation as a prominent mechanism, in which treated honest types show 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. 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)

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

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

Not Always a Panacea: History Education and Identity-Building in Taiwan (with Y. Lyu) 

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

Work in Progress