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Foreign Direct Investment and Pollution Havens: Evaluating the Evidence from China


  • Dean, Judith M.
  • Lovely, Mary E.
  • Wang, Hua


One of the most contentious debates today is whether pollution-intensive industries seek locations with weak environmental standards, turning these locations into 'pollution havens." Empirical studies to date show little evidence to support the pollution haven hypothesis, but suffer potentially from omitted variable bias, specification, and measurement errors. This paper estimates the strength of pollution-haven behavior by examining the location choices of equity joint venture (EJV) projects in China. We derive a location choice model from a theoretical framework that incorporates the firm's production and abatement decision, agglomeration and factor abundance. We estimate conditional logit and nested multinomial logit models using new data sets containing information on a sample of EJV projects, effective environmental levies on water pollution, and estimates of Chinese emissions and abatement costs for 3-digit ISIC industries. Results from 2886 manufacturing joint venture projects during 1993-1996 show EJVs from all source countries go into provinces with high concentrations of foreign investment, relatively abundant stocks of skilled workers, concentrations of foreign firms, and special incentives. Environmental stringency does affect location choice, but not in the manner described by the pollution haven hypothesis. Relatively weak environmental levies are a significant attraction for joint ventures with partners from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asian developing countries. In contrast, joint ventures with partners from industrial country sources (e.g., US, UK and Japan) are actually attracted by stringent environmental levies, regardless of the pollution intensity of the industry. We discuss the likely role of technological differences in explaining these results.

Suggested Citation

  • Dean, Judith M. & Lovely, Mary E. & Wang, Hua, 2004. "Foreign Direct Investment and Pollution Havens: Evaluating the Evidence from China," Working Papers 15854, United States International Trade Commission, Office of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uitcoe:15854

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hua Wang & Nlandu Mamingi & Benoit Laplante & Susmita Dasgupta, 2003. "Incomplete Enforcement of Pollution Regulation: Bargaining Power of Chinese Factories," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 24(3), pages 245-262, March.
    2. Javorcik Beata Smarzynska & Wei Shang-Jin, 2003. "Pollution Havens and Foreign Direct Investment: Dirty Secret or Popular Myth?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(2), pages 1-34, December.
    3. Eskeland, Gunnar S. & Harrison, Ann E., 2003. "Moving to greener pastures? Multinationals and the pollution haven hypothesis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 1-23, February.
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    5. Dean, Judith M., 1992. "Trade and the environment : a survey of the literature," Policy Research Working Paper Series 966, The World Bank.
    6. Harry G. Broadman & Xiaolun Sun, 1997. "The Distribution of Foreign Direct Investment in China," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(3), pages 339-361, May.
    7. Wolfgang Keller & Arik Levinson, 2002. "Pollution Abatement Costs and Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to U.S. States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(4), pages 691-703, November.
    8. Cheng, Leonard K. & Kwan, Yum K., 2000. "What are the determinants of the location of foreign direct investment? The Chinese experience," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 379-400, August.
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    12. Zhang, Kevin Honglin & Markusen, James R., 1999. "Vertical multinationals and host-country characteristics," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 233-252, August.
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    15. Arik Levinson and M. Scott Taylor, 2004. "Unmasking the Pollution Haven Hypothesis," Working Papers gueconwpa~04-04-04, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    16. Wang, Hua & Wheeler, David, 2003. "Equilibrium pollution and economic development in China," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 451-466, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Amiti, Mary & Smarzynska Javorcik, Beata, 2008. "Trade costs and location of foreign firms in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1-2), pages 129-149, February.
    2. Judith M. Dean & Mary E. Lovely & Hua Wang, 2017. "Are foreign investors attracted to weak environmental regulations? Evaluating the evidence from China," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: International Economic Integration and Domestic Performance, chapter 9, pages 155-167 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    3. Chakraborty, Debashis & Mukherjee, Sacchidananda, 2010. "Relationship between Trade, Investment and Environment: A Review of Issues," MPRA Paper 23333, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00344845 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Gary Koop & Lise Tole, 2008. "What is the environmental performance of firms overseas? An empirical investigation of the global gold mining industry," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 129-143, October.
    6. Davies, Ronald B. & Ellis, Christopher J., 2007. "Competition in taxes and performance requirements for foreign direct investment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 1423-1442, August.
    7. Sonia Ben Kheder & Natalia Zugravu, 2008. "The pollution haven hypothesis : a geographic economy model in a comparative study," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne v08083, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    8. Andreas Waldkirch & Munisamy Gopinath, 2004. "Pollution Haven or Hythe? New Evidence from Mexico," International Trade 0412005, EconWPA.
    9. Dinda, Soumyananda, 2004. "Environmental Kuznets Curve Hypothesis: A Survey," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 431-455, August.


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