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Thu, Apr 21



Jay Shimshack, UVA

"Citizen Complaints and Regulator Behavior"

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Jay Shimshack, UVA
Jay Shimshack, UVA

Time & Location

Apr 21, 2022, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM EDT

Durham, 201 Science Dr, Durham, NC 27708, USA

About the Event

Almost all U.S. regulatory statutes, and every major environmental law, allow for citizen engagement. The effects of citizen engagement on regulators, facilities, and the public, however, remain poorly understood. Exploiting newly available administrative data on over 130,000 unique citizen complaints submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality between 2003 and 2019, we present new stylized facts and provide early evidence on the effect of citizen engagement on regulatory monitoring and enforcement decisions. Complaints per-capita are concentrated in less urban areas. Almost all complaints are investigated. The overall effect of these complaint-induced investigations, however, is theoretically ambiguous. We estimate that a citizen complaint against a facility is associated with a 51 percentage point increase in the likelihood of an investigation in the month the complaint was lodged and a 22 percentage point increase in the subsequent month. We also estimate that complaints are associated with an increase in notices of violation and enforcement, alongside an increase in non-complaint-related investigations up to 6 months after a complaint. Our findings suggest that citizen complaints can be an effective way to enhance regulatory efficiency.


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