IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

How Well Does the U.S. Government Do Benefit-Cost Analysis?

Listed author(s):
  • Robert W. Hahn
  • Patrick M. Dudley

To make prudent recommendations for improving the use of benefit-cost analysis in policy settings, some measures of how well it is actually done are essential. This article develops new insights on the potential usefulness of government benefit-cost analysis by examining how it is actually performed in the United States.We assess the quality of a particularly rich sample of benefit-cost analyses of federal regulations. The data set we use for assessing the quality of regulatory analysis is the largest assembled to date for this purpose. The seventy-four analyses we examine span the Reagan administration, the George H. W. Bush administration, and the Clinton administrations. The article is the first to assess systematically how government benefit-cost analysis has changed over time.There are three key findings. First, a significant percentage of the analyses in all three administrations does not provide some very basic economic information, such as information on net benefits and policy alternatives. For example, over 70 percent of the analyses in the sample failed to provide any quantitative information on net benefits. Second, there is no clear trend in the quality of benefit-cost analysis across administrations. Third, there is a great deal of variation in the quality of individual benefit-cost analyses. Copyright 2007, Oxford University Press.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in its journal Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.

Volume (Year): 1 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (Summer)
Pages: 192-211

in new window

Handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:1:y:2007:i:2:p:192-211
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK

Fax: 01865 267 985
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:1:y:2007:i:2:p:192-211. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.