The effects of regulation -- both benefits and costs -- are difficult to measure, particularly when considered in the aggregate. As a result, analysts often turn to indirect proxies to understand the reach and impact of regulations over time. Some of the statistics used to track aggregate regulatory activity over time are presented here.
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Using the database at Reginfo.gov to track the volume of regulations published during their time in office, this graph tracks Presidents Clinton and Bush's volume of regulations published during their time in office and overlays them with President Obama’s pace for regulatory output through December of 2016. Download Data
This graph shows a comparision of the last quarter of every President’s time in office, which we define here as the Midnight quarter, and compare these to other non-Midnight quarters to illustrate the level of increase in regulatory output across administrations. Download Data
The number of pages in the Federal Register—the daily journal of the federal government in which all newly proposed rules are published along with final rules, executive orders, and other agency notices—provides a sense of the flow of new regulations issued during a given period and suggests how the regulatory burden will grow as Americans try to comply with the new mandates. Download Data
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of all rules and regulations promulgated by federal agencies. Its size (which has grown from 71,224 pages in 1975 to 178,277 at the end of 2015) provides a sense of the scope of existing regulations with which American businesses, workers, and consumers must comply. The federal government tracks the number of pages and volumes in the CFR each year. Download Data
The Regulators’ Budget tracks the direct fiscal budget expenditures and agency staff devoted to regulatory activity. By analyzing the federal personnel and expenses necessary to develop and enforce regulations, we can track regulatory trends over time. These data, developed by the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center and the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis, provide insight into the composition and evolution of regulation from 1960 to the present.
Agencies often estimate the Benefits and Costs of Regulations individually before they are issued. Two federal agencies use different methods to estimated regulatory benefits and costs in the aggregate. The Office of Management and Budget reports to Congress each year on the benefits and costs of major regulations issued over the preceding 10 years. The Small Business Office of Advocacy estimates the total cost of regulation, and the relative burden born by small entities.
This graph is based on the GW Regulatory Studies Center's analysis of OMB data.
Economically significant rules, as presented in this graph, are regulations issued by executive branch agencies that meet the definition in Section 3(f)(1) of Executive Order 12866 (“have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities.” We present numbers by "presidential year" (February 1 to January 31) to understand priorities and activities during presidential terms. Download Data
“Significant regulations,”as defined by Executive Order 12866, are those that may “create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles set forth in this Executive order.” We graph numbers of rules by "presidential year" (February 1 to January 31) to understand priorities and activities during presidential terms. Download Data
The Government Accountability Office reports on "major" rules published. The Congressional Review Act, passed in 1996, defines a major rule as "one that has resulted in or is likely to result in (1) an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; (2) a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; or (3) significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, or innovation, or on the ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets." Download Data
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviews draft proposed and final regulations to ensure they comply with theregulatory principles stated in Presidential Executive Orders and reflect the President’s policies and priorities. E.O. 12866 established a 90 day period for review, but authorized the rulemaking agency head to request, or the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director to approve, extensions of review beyond 90 days (E.O. 12866 Section 6(b)(2)(c). Figure 1 shows the average length of review for regulations concluded in each year. Figure 2 shows the action by which OIRA concluded review.
The 2013 government shutdown (October 1 – October 17) had visible effects on the regulatory activities of federal agencies. On September 30, the day before the shutdown, The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) published a notice announcing procedures for publishing government documents – such as proposed rules, final rules, and agency notices – in the absence of government funding, stating: “In the event of an appropriations lapse, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) would be required to publish documents directly related to the performance of governmental functions necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or protection of property.” OFR left the decision as to which documents were “necessary” for these purposes to federal agencies. The two figures to the right represent the effect of the shutdown on federal regulatory activities. Figure 1 shows activity in the Federal Register from August 1st through November 1st. The vertical lines at October 1st and October 17th mark the beginning and end of the government shutdown. Figure 2 illustrates the decline in the number of proposed rules, final rules and “significant” documents published. Download Data
OMB recently released its semiannual Unified Agenda listing the ongoing and upcoming regulations planned by agencies. The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda includes 3,348 total regulatory actions, 524 of which are appearing in the Agenda for the first time, and 197 of which are “economically significant.” The majority (71%) of the regulatory actions in the Spring Agenda are listed as “active,” of which 17% are published for the first time in this Agenda.
The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda does not differ significantly from the number of total actions listed in the previous Unified Agenda, published in Fall 2013. While there was a very slight decrease in active regulatory actions between Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, the count of total regulatory actions (including “long-term” and “completed”) increased from 3,305 to 3,348, and the number of economically significant actions and regulatory actions published for the first time also increased. However, the increase in total regulatory actions listed in the spring Agenda is entirely a result of an increase in the number of “completed” regulatory actions, which does not have any effect on regulations that the public can expect in the coming year. Download data