The vast majority of states have implemented some version of enterprise zone (EZ) programs, which geographically target economic development efforts to revitalize distressed areas. While EZs have been studied extensively, there is little evidence that they have succeeded. Despite this, the number of programs, the number of EZs designated, and the land area covered by these zones have grown over time. This essay reviews the research on state EZ programs and explores why it has not had a greater influence on policy. One explanation we discuss is that the research has not been made accessible enough to policy makers and their staffs. Another explanation we posit is that political decision making that guides policy on EZ programs is influenced by many actors and sources of information not just the academic research literature. The essay discusses how the establishment or expansion of EZ programs may be encouraged by EZ businesses and landlords engaging in rent seeking behavior. The essay concludes by providing some recommendations regarding how the research community can make its work more relevant for state and local policy makers and how policy makers can become better consumers of evaluative research when implementing and refining programs.
Greenbaum, R. T., & Landers, J. (2009). Why Are State Policy Makers Still Proponents of Enterprise Zones? What Explains Their Action in the Face of a Preponderance of the Research? International Regional Science Review, 32(4), 466–479.