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The Effects of Environmental Regulation on the Competiveness of U.S. Manufacturing

  • Michael Greenstone
  • John A. List
  • Chad Syverson

Whether and to what extent environmental regulations influence the competitiveness of firms remains a hotly debated issue. Using detailed production data from tens of thousands of U.S. manufacturing plants drawn from Annual Survey of Manufactures, we estimate the effects of environmental regulations—captured by the Clean Air Act Amendments’ division of counties into pollutant-specific nonattainment and attainment categories—on manufacturing plants’ total factor productivity (TFP) levels. We find that among surviving polluting plants, a nonattainment designation is associated with a roughly 2.6 percent decline in TFP. The regulations governing ozone have particularly discernable effects on productivity, though effects are also seen among particulates and sulfur dioxide emitters. Carbon monoxide nonattainment, on the other hand, appears to increase measured TFP, though this appears to be concentrated among refineries. When we apply corrections for two likely sources of positive bias in these estimates (price mismeasurement and sample selection on survival), we estimate that the total TFP loss for polluting plants in nonattaining counties is 4.8 percent. This corresponds to an annual lost output in the manufacturing sector of roughly $14.7 billion in 1987 dollars ($24.4 billion in 2009 dollars). These costs have important implications for both the intensity and location of firm expansions.

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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 11-03.

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Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-03
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  1. Greenstone, Michael, 2004. "Did the Clean Air Act cause the remarkable decline in sulfur dioxide concentrations?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 585-611, May.
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  3. Marcus Asplund & Volker Nocke, 2003. "Firm Turnover in Imperfectly Competitive Markets," PIER Working Paper Archive 03-010, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
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  7. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2005. "Does Air Quality Matter? Evidence from the Housing Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 376-424, April.
  8. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1982. "Selection and the Evolution of Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 649-70, May.
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  10. Marcus Asplund & Volker Nocke, 2006. "Firm Turnover in Imperfectly Competitive Markets -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(2), pages 295-327.
  11. Foster, Lucia & Haltiwanger, John C. & Syverson, Chad, 2005. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," IZA Discussion Papers 1705, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. William Walker, 2012. "The Transitional Costs of Sectoral Reallocation: Evidence from the Clean Air Act and the Workforce," Working Papers 12-02, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  13. Jacobson, Louis S & LaLonde, Robert J & Sullivan, Daniel G, 1993. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 685-709, September.
  14. Hopenhayn, Hugo A, 1992. "Entry, Exit, and Firm Dynamics in Long Run Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1127-50, September.
  15. Mark Doms & Eric J. Bartelsman, 2000. "Understanding Productivity: Lessons from Longitudinal Microdata," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 569-594, September.
  16. Eli Berman & Linda T.M. Bui, 1998. "Environmental Regulation and Productivity: Evidence from Oil Refineries," Papers 0091, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  17. List John A. & Millimet Daniel L & McHone Warren, 2004. "The Unintended Disincentive in the Clean Air Act," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(2), pages 1-28, February.
  18. Holger Sieg & V. Kerry Smith & H. Spencer Banzhaf & Randy Walsh, 2004. "Estimating The General Equilibrium Benefits Of Large Changes In Spatially Delineated Public Goods," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(4), pages 1047-1077, November.
  19. Chad Syverson, 2010. "What Determines Productivity?," NBER Working Papers 15712, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Gollop, Frank M & Roberts, Mark J, 1983. "Environmental Regulations and Productivity Growth: The Case of Fossil-Fueled Electric Power Generation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 654-74, August.
  21. Heckman, James J, 1979. "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 153-61, January.
  22. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "The Impact Of Air Pollution On Infant Mortality: Evidence From Geographic Variation In Pollution Shocks Induced By A Recession," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1121-1167, August.
  23. Michael Greenstone, 2002. "The Impacts of Environmental Regulations on Industrial Activity: Evidence from the 1970 and 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments and the Census of Manufactures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1175-1219, December.
  24. Tra, Constant I., 2010. "A discrete choice equilibrium approach to valuing large environmental changes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 183-196, February.
  25. Pashigian, B Peter, 1984. "The Effect of Environmental Regulation on Optimal Plant Size and Factor Shares," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 1-28, April.
  26. Chad Syverson, 2008. "Markets: Ready-Mixed Concrete," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 217-234, Winter.
  27. John A. List & Daniel L. Millimet & Per G. Fredriksson & W. Warren McHone, 2003. "Effects of Environmental Regulations on Manufacturing Plant Births: Evidence from a Propensity Score Matching Estimator," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 944-952, November.
  28. Nadeau, Louis W., 1997. "EPA Effectiveness at Reducing the Duration of Plant-Level Noncompliance," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 54-78, September.
  29. Randy Becker & Vernon Henderson, 2000. "Effects of Air Quality Regulations on Polluting Industries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 379-421, April.
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