Mark Buntaine, Michael Greenstone, Guojun He, Mengdi Liu, Shaoda Wang, and Bing Zhang

We conducted a nationwide field experiment in China to evaluate the direct and indirect impacts of assigning firms to public or private citizen appeals treatments when they violate pollution standards. There are three main findings. First, public appeals to the regulator through social media substantially reduce violations and pollution emissions, while private appeals cause more modest environmental improvements. Second, experimentally adding “likes” and “shares” to social media appeals increases regulatory effort, suggesting visibility as an important mechanism. Third, treatment pollution reductions are not offset by control firm increases, based on randomly varying the proportion of treatment firms at the prefecture-level.

Areas of Focus: Environment
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Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Air Pollution
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Air Pollution
Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion poses a grave threat to human health worldwide. EPIC research is using real-world data to calculate the effects of air pollution on human health...
EPIC-China
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EPIC-China
China is indisputably critical to addressing the global energy challenge. China is one of the world’s biggest economies, the top carbon emitter, and among the most polluted countries. Yet, China...