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Estimating the Job Impacts of Environmental Regulation

  • Anna Belova (a1), Wayne B. Gray (a2), Joshua Linn (a3), Richard D. Morgenstern (a4) and William Pizer (a5) (a6)...

In the face of strong policy interest in the possible regulation–jobs linkage and weak analytical evidence to support a generalizable conclusion, what should a regulatory agency like the Environmental Protection Agency do in a regulatory impact analysis (RIA)? Initially, an RIA should start with a clear concept of what the regulatory agency is trying to estimate. Much of the popular debate is looking for a total job effect. Yet one thing we do know is that, in aggregate, there will not be a net job change unless the economy deviates from its normal rate of full employment. The gist of our literature review suggests that looking to historic data for stable statistical relationships between regulatory spending and job changes, even in a single industry, is tenuous at best. However, the intuition is relatively easy to trace out with certain assumptions: (1) added costs imply added activity that entails added jobs; (2) higher product prices or other regulatory limits imply less production that entails fewer jobs. Taking an average employment rate per dollar of relevant economic activity, coupled with an assumed demand elasticity, these effects can be multiplied out into job changes, although such simple calculations must be tested by validating key assumptions or exploring the estimates sensitivity to alternatives. New estimates by Belova, Gray, Linn and Morgenstern [(2013a). Environmental Regulation And Industry Employment: A Reassessment. Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau Discussion Paper, CES 1336, July.] indicate that extending and expanding the widely cited approach by Morgenstern, Pizer and Shih [(2002). Jobs Versus the Environment: An Industry-Level Perspective. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 43, 412–436] is unlikely to be successful. Finally, more effort is needed to inform the public about the potential job impacts of new regulations, especially the distinction of these impacts from long-term technological and economic trends.

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