Empirical Tests for Midnight Regulations and Their Effect on OIRA Review Time

This working paper addresses the midnight regulations phenomenon and its effect on OIRA review times.


The midnight regulations phenomenon—an increase in the rate of regulation promulgation during the final months of an outgoing president’s term—is empirically tested using OIRA data on the number of economically significant regulations reviewed each month.

Our Findings

  • Submissions of economically significant regulations to OIRA are found to increase by about 7 percent during midnight periods.
  • Spikes in regulatory activity, such as those of midnight periods, are shown to decrease the average amount of time regulations are under review at OIRA, perhaps because of budget and staff limitations at OIRA.
  • Evaluated at the mean, one additional economically significant regulation submitted to OIRA decreases the mean review time for all regulations by about half a day.
  • If OIRA review improves the quality of regulations, then any phenomenon such as midnight regulations that leads to spikes in regulatory activity that decreases average review time could result in the occasional proliferation of low-quality regulations.