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The location choices of foreign investors: a district-level analysis in India

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This paper analyses the determinants of the location choices made by foreign investors at the district level in India to gauge the relative importance of economic geography factors, local business conditions, institutional conditions and the presence of previous foreign investors. We employ a discrete-choice model and Poisson regressions to control for the potential violation of the assumption of independence of irrelevant alternatives. Our sample includes about 19,500 foreign investment projects approved in 447 districts from 1991 to 2005. We find that foreign investors strongly prefer locations where other foreign investors are. This effect is significantly positive and robust across different years, sectors and different types of foreign direct investment (FDI). Moreover, path dependence remains significantly positive when controlling for institutional conditions at the state and district level. Foreign investors tend to follow not only previous investors from the same country of origin but also investors from other countries of origin. They are also attracted to industrially diverse locations and to districts with better infrastructure and institutional conditions, although these findings are less robust. Surprisingly, districts in the neighbourhood of large metro areas do not benefit, in terms of attracting more FDI, from having easier access to these markets than remote Indian districts. On the contrary, our results suggest that large metro areas divert FDI projects away from neighbouring districts, thereby perpetuating or even widening the urban-rural divide. We conclude that the concentration of FDI in a few locations could fuel regional divergence in post-reform India.

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