Business Regulation and Business Investment: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing 1970-2009

Originally published in Journal of Regulatory Economics

Regulation is often portrayed as placing a substantial burden on US businesses and the overall US economy. Moreover, policy options of “cutting red tape” and “reducing federal bureaucracy” are often asserted to be a way to stimulate investment and, through this channel, a way to promote economic growth. This paper examines the relationship between growth in regulatory restrictions in the Code of Federal Regulations and manufacturing investment in the United States over the 1970–2009 period. An industry-level dataset is constructed by mapping the novel industry-specific RegData dataset from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University to the comprehensive industry-specific manufacturing data in the NBER-CES Manufacturing Industry Database. In total, the constructed dataset includes 337 manufacturing industries. This approach yields substantial evidence that increased business regulation is associated with decreased business investment.