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Pollution Abatement Costs, Regulation, and Plant-Level Productivity


  • Wayne B. Gray
  • Ronald J. Shadbegian


We analyze the connection between productivity, pollution abatement expenditures, and other measures of environmental regulation for plants in three industries (paper, oil, and steel). We examine data from 1979 to 1990, considering both total factor productivity levels and growth rates. Plants with higher abatement cost levels have significantly lower productivity levels. The magnitude of the impact is somewhat larger than expected: $1 greater abatement costs appears to be associated with the equivalent of $1.74 in lower productivity for paper mills, $1.35 for oil refineries, and $3.28 for steel mills. However, these results apply only to variation across plants in productivity levels. Estimates looking at productivity variation within plants over time, or estimates using productivity growth rates show a smaller (and insignificant) relationship between abatement costs and productivity. Other measures of environmental regulation faced by the plants (compliance status, enforcement activity, and emissions) are not significantly related to productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Wayne B. Gray & Ronald J. Shadbegian, 1995. "Pollution Abatement Costs, Regulation, and Plant-Level Productivity," NBER Working Papers 4994, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4994
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kim B. Clark, 1980. "The Impact of Unionization on Productivity: A Case Study," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 33(4), pages 451-469, July.
    2. Deily, Mary E. & Gray, Wayne B., 1991. "Enforcement of pollution regulations in a declining industry," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 260-274, November.
    3. Viscusi, W Kip, 1983. "Frameworks for Analyzing the Effects of Risk and Environmental Regulations on Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 793-801, September.
    4. Nguyen, Sang V. & Kokkelenberg, Edward C., 1990. "Measuring Total Factor Productivity, Technical Change and the Rate of Returns to Research and Development," Working Papers 179215, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    5. Barbera, Anthony J & McConnell, Virginia D, 1986. "Effects of Pollution Control on Industry Productivity: A Factor Demand Approach," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(2), pages 161-172, December.
    6. Gray, Wayne B, 1987. "The Cost of Regulation: OSHA, EPA and the Productivity Slowdown," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 998-1006, December.
    7. Robert H Mcguckin & George A Pascoe, 1988. "The Longitudinal Research Database (LRD): Status And Research Possibilities," Working Papers 88-2, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    8. 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 654-674, August.
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    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • Q28 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy


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