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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues

opportunity zones

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) allowed for the creation of Opportunity Zones (OZs) — specially designated census tracts encompassing low-income neighborhoods meant to stimulate investment through large tax incentives. But critics say the program has not spurred additional investment as much as rewarded politically connected investors. In this Kenan Insight, we investigate what role, if any, bias and political party affiliation plays in the selection of OZs.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 established a new program called “Opportunity Zones” that created tax advantages for investment locating in Census tracts with relatively low income or high poverty. Importantly, only 25% of eligible tracts in each state could be designated as an Opportunity Zone. We use detailed establishment-level data and a difference-in-difference (DiD) approach to identify the designation of a tract as an Opportunity Zone on job creation.

We examine the role of political affiliation during the selection of Opportunity Zones, a place-based tax incentive enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. We find governors are on average 7.6% more likely to select a census tract as an Opportunity Zone when the tract’s state representative is a member of the governor’s political party.