There has long been bipartisan interest in understanding how well US laws and regulations are working to achieve their intended purposes. A credible look back at past performance—referred to as retrospective or ex post analysis—can help document the extent to which regulatory benefits have been realized, and at what cost. Such analyses can also illuminate any unintended consequences of regulation, e.g., adverse outcomes for certain populations, or enhancement of market power. These retrospective studies are also critical in supporting future innovation in regulatory design.
Prospective (or ex ante) analyses—more commonly known as regulatory impact analyses, or RIAs—are now routinely conducted for major new regulations. As Michael Greenstone noted a decade ago, however, RIAs are developed at the “point when the least is known.” Retrospective analyses are done after a regulation is in place allowing the measurement of its actual effects. But many challenges impede the routine conduct of retrospective analysis of federal environmental rules. Thus, consistent measurements of actual outcomes, based on quasi-experimental or other modern methods, are extremely limited.
Given the challenges, how do we advance what we know about how well our laws (and particularly, our environmental laws) are working? Resources for the Future (RFF) has been leading a two-year effort to help answer this question. A distinguished set of researchers will present findings from that work on Monday, September 16—primarily focused on Clean Air Act rules—highlighting the economic and institutional issues associated with conducting retrospective analysis while also suggesting areas for improvement.
When: Monday, September 16, 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; additional details forthcoming.
Where: Resources & Conservation Center, 1400 16th St., NW, Washington, DC, 20036