Do Federal Regulations Reduce Mortality?
44 Pages Posted: 30 May 2001
Date Written: November 2000
A minimal test of the desirability of regulations is that they further their primary objectives. In some cases, regulations designed to reduce health, safety, and environmental risks can actually increase risk, especially when such regulations lead to significant reductions in private expenditures on life-saving investments. This monograph assesses the mortality implications of the costs of a group of twenty-four federal health, safety, and environmental regulations.
We find that an unintended increase in risk is likely to result from the majority of regulations examined here. A more positive result is that aggregate mortality risk falls for the entire set of regulations, primarily because a few regulations yield large reductions in risk.
We believe that such analysis can help to highlight the potential problems with inefficient regulation and can serve as a useful complement to other forms of analysis, such as benefit-cost analysis. Specifically, we believe that an assessment of the mortality implications of regulatory costs can and should be used to help identify those regulations whose primary purpose is to save lives but that may have the unintended consequence of actually increasing mortality. In such perverse cases, Congress and the regulatory agencies should seriously consider alternatives that would yield higher levels of economic welfare and save more lives.
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