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A Long-Term Evaluation of the First Generation of the French Urban Enterprise Zones


  • Corentin Trevien
  • Pauline Givord
  • Simon Quantin


This paper provides new empirical evidence on the long-run efficiency of locally targeted tax incentives in revitalizing distressed areas. We focus on the first generation of the French “Enterprise Zone†(EZ) initiative, implemented in 1997 in continental France. This program provides tax incentives to firms located in designated areas plagued by social and economic difficulties. Compared to EZs in the US and the UK, French Enterprise Zones offer generous tax reductions, but these subsidies are limited to small firms with less than fifty employees. To our knowledge, the first generation of French EZs has not yet been evaluated on a national scale. A very rich georeferenced panel dataset is used to identify the impact of the EZ policy. Our identification strategy relies on the selection mechanism employed by the French government: designated EZs were selected according to a deprivation index based on various socio-economic criteria. Besides, in order to qualify as an EZ, an urban area must have a population of over 10,000. Consequently, a pool of deprived urban areas was left untreated because of this threshold whereas it was similar to selected areas in terms of economic development. We use two different empirical methods: a combination of regression and sub-classification on the propensity score, and a regression discontinuity design method. Both methods yield similar results. We highlight a strong positive impact of this policy on employment and business location during the first years of the policy. Detailed estimates moderate this initial favourable assessment. First, the EZ effect is partially offset after the initial five-year period of full tax exemptions by more frequent business discontinuations. We simulate actual tax reliefs at a firm-level at the beginning of the policy and ten years after in order to explain this waning effect. We highlight the fact that the introduction of generous payroll tax deductions at a national scale in 2003 reduced the attractiveness of targeted areas. Second, while firms already operating also benefit from tax exemptions, no significant impact on their employment level can be detected. Besides, this policy promotes sectors of activity that weakly stimulate local employment and development. Overall, these results suggest that firms are sensitive to tax cuts but call into question the capacity of EZs to improve local economy. Keywords: Enterprise Zones, Local Employment, Propensity Score Matching, Evaluation. JEL: C23, H71, R5

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  • Corentin Trevien & Pauline Givord & Simon Quantin, 2012. "A Long-Term Evaluation of the First Generation of the French Urban Enterprise Zones," ERSA conference papers ersa12p776, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa12p776

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Papke, Leslie E., 1994. "Tax policy and urban development : Evidence from the Indiana enterprise zone program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 37-49, May.
    2. Matias Busso & Patrick Kline, 2008. "Do Local Economic Development Programs Work? Evidence from the Federal Empowerment Zone Program," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1639, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    3. Givord, Pauline & Rathelot, Roland & Sillard, Patrick, 2013. "Place-based tax exemptions and displacement effects: An evaluation of the Zones Franches Urbaines program," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 151-163.
    4. Jed Kolko & David Neumark, 2010. "Do some enterprise zones create jobs?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(1), pages 5-38.
    5. Battistin, Erich & Rettore, Enrico, 2008. "Ineligibles and eligible non-participants as a double comparison group in regression-discontinuity designs," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 715-730, February.
    6. Roland Rathelot & Patrick Sillard, 2008. "The Importance of Local Corporate Taxes in Business Location Decisions: Evidence From French Micro Data," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(527), pages 499-514, March.
    7. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    8. Bondonio, Daniele & Greenbaum, Robert T., 2007. "Do local tax incentives affect economic growth? What mean impacts miss in the analysis of enterprise zone policies," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 121-136, January.
    9. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-209, January.
    10. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra Todd, 1998. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 261-294.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mayer, Thierry & Mayneris, Florian & Py, Loriane, 2012. "The Impact of Urban Enterprise Zones on Establishments' Location Decisions: Evidence from French ZFUs," CEPR Discussion Papers 9074, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Behaghel, Luc & Lorenceau, Adrien & Quantin, Simon, 2015. "Replacing churches and mason lodges? Tax exemptions and rural development," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 1-15.
    3. Pauline Charnoz, 2014. "French enterprise zone program : did it help the residents of deprived neighborhoods ?," ERSA conference papers ersa14p1465, European Regional Science Association.
    4. Florian MAYNERIS & Loriane PY, 2013. "The Efficiency Of Enterprise Zone Programs Some Conflicting Results?," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 38, pages 209-224.
    5. repec:oup:jecgeo:v:17:y:2017:i:4:p:709-752. is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Thierry Mayer & Florian Mayneris & Loriane Py, 2017. "The impact of Urban Enterprise Zones on establishment location decisions and labor market outcomes: evidence from France," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(4), pages 709-752.
    7. Augusto Cerqua & Guido Pellegrini, 2014. "Beyond the SUTVA: how policy evaluations change when we allow for interactions among firms," Working Papers 2/14, Sapienza University of Rome, DISS.
    8. Augusto Cerqua & Guido Pellegrini, 2013. "Beyond the SUTVA: how industrial policy evaluations change when we allow for interaction among firms," ERSA conference papers ersa13p340, European Regional Science Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • R5 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis

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