On Spatial Heterogeneity in Environmental Compliance Costs

Randy A. Becker


This paper examines the extent of variation in regulatory stringency below the state level, using establishment-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditures survey to estimate a county-level index of environmental compliance costs. County-level variation is found to explain 11 to 18 times more of the variation in environmental compliance costs than state-level variation alone, and the range of environmental compliance costs within a state is often large. At least 34% of U.S. counties have environmental compliance costs that are statistically different from their states’. Results suggest that important spatial variation is lost in state-level studies of environmental regulation. (JEL Q52, R52)

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