Research Project

Chelsea Wong

Major: Economics and Political Science
Minor: Philosophy
Faculty Advisor: Professor Rosanne Altshuler

Policy Presentation Theme: Economic and Educational Cooperation and Conflict

The highly partisan Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 did more than simplify the individual tax code and slash taxes for corporations. A new program creating “Opportunity Zones” (OZs) was buried in the bill. The program uses tax incentives to draw investment to distressed communities. OZs, modeled after a previous place-based development program (Empowerment Zones), were first proposed by a group of bipartisan senators. The goal was to lift communities from poverty through the development of thriving local economies. Three years after its creation and as the number of zones expands, policy makers are questioning whether the program will succeed in helping the targeted communities. Some analysts worry the program is simply a tax avoidance scheme that benefits only rich investors. Others fear it encourages gentrification that will not benefit communities. Inspired by this controversy, I investigate the program’s potential for success by drawing insight from the lessons learned from Empowerment Zones.