Zhoudan (Zoey) Xie is a senior policy analyst at the GW Regulatory Studies Center. Her research interests include economic effects of regulation, bureaucratic behavior in regulatory processes, and public participation in regulatory policy making. Prior to joining the Center, Zoey served as a consultant at the World Bank, where she conducted empirical economic analysis on cross-national macroeconomic and development issues. She also interned at the United Nations Environment Programme and several other international, nonprofit organizations. Zoey holds a master’s degree in public policy (M.P.P.) from the George Washington University and a master’s degree in environmental governance from Keio University (Japan). She is currently a Ph.D. student in economics at the George Washington University.
Content by Zoey Xie
October 12, 2021 | By: Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
The notice and comment process, in which government organizations make public draft laws and regulations and solicit feedback on these proposals, is a prominent governance reform in contemporary China. This article examines the durability of the notice and comment process as a policymaking innovation by conducting a pair of audits of the practices of dozens of central government ministries and provincial governments. There are a number of reasons to expect that it is difficult to sustain policymaking innovations in China. Nevertheless, the audits—which were carried out in 2014 and 2021—demonstrate that, subject to a number of constraints, the notice and comment process diffused across government organizations in the period under analysis. Although the notice and comment process is a durable governance reform, additional research is needed before it can be concluded that it brings more than a veneer of transparency to Chinese policymaking.
June 28, 2021 | By: Tara M. Sinclair & Zhoudan Xie
Regulatory policy can create economic and social benefits, but poorly designed or excessive regulation may generate substantial adverse effects on the economy. In this paper, we present measures of sentiment and uncertainty about regulation in the U.S. over time and examine their relationships with macroeconomic performance. We construct the measures using lexicon-based sentiment analysis of an original news corpus, which covers 493,418 news articles related to regulation from seven leading U.S. newspapers. As a result, we build monthly indexes of sentiment and uncertainty about regulation and categorical indexes for 14 regulatory policy areas from January 1985 to August 2020. Impulse response functions indicate that a negative shock to sentiment about regulation is associated with large, persistent drops in future output and employment, while increased regulatory uncertainty overall reduces output and employment temporarily. These results suggest that sentiment about regulation plays a more important economic role than uncertainty about regulation. Furthermore, economic outcomes are particularly sensitive to sentiment around transportation regulation and to uncertainty around labor regulation.
June 15, 2020 | By: Susan E. Dudley and Zhoudan Xie
Behavioral research has shown that individuals do not always behave in ways that match textbook definitions of rationality but are subject to cognitive biases that may lead to systematic errors in judgments and decisions. Recognizing that regulators are not immune from these cognitive irrationalities, this article explores how the institutional framework or “choice architecture” in which they operate interacts with those biases. By examining five cognitive biases that may be prevalent among regulators, it discusses the extent to which the institutions regulators face reinforce or counteract the influence of cognitive biases in regulatory decision making. Just as behavioral insights can help design a choice architecture to frame individual decisions in ways that encourage welfare‐enhancing choices, consciously designing regulators' institutional frameworks with behavioral insights in mind could lead to more public‐welfare‐enhancing policies. The article concludes with some modest ideas for improving regulators' choice architecture and suggestions for further research.
Consultation as Policymaking Innovation: Comparing Government Transparency and Public Participation in China and the United States
June 3, 2020 | By: Steven J. Balla and Zhoudan Xie
This article compares government transparency and public participation in policymaking across China and the United States. The analysis specifically focuses on the notice and comment process—government announcement of proposed policies and solicitation of public feedback—at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The MOC and EPA are leading organizations in the implementation of such consultation in their respective countries. Information is collected and coded for hundreds of draft regulations and thousands of public comments that occurred during the 2002–2016 period. Statistical analysis of levels of, and variation in, transparency and participation demonstrates both similarities and differences in the operation of the notice and comment process at the MOC and EPA. Transparency and participation are generally lower at the MOC than in EPA consultations. Within such constraints, however, there is evidence of standardization in the administration of consultation by the MOC. These findings suggest that differences in the Chinese and U.S. political systems, rather than issues of administrative capacity, are the primary limitations of consultation as a policymaking innovation in contemporary China.
Online Consultation and the Institutionalization of Transparency and Participation in Chinese Policymaking
May 26, 2020 | By: Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
This article examines the institutionalization of online consultation, a prominent instrument of governance reform in contemporary China in which government organizations make public draft laws and regulations and solicit input from interested parties prior to finalizing decisions. The article specifically analyses the extent to which online consultation is a durable governance reform that enhances transparency and participation in policymaking. The analysis focuses on the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and Guangzhou Municipal Government (GMG), leading organizations in the implementation of online consultation. Through the analysis of original datasets consisting of hundreds of policies proposed by the MOC and GMG and thousands of comments submitted in response to these drafts, the article demonstrates that online consultation has institutionalized government transparency but has not consistently enhanced public participation. Although online consultation has the potential to transform policymaking, the evidence suggests that strong confidence in this possibility is not warranted.
December 03, 2019 | By: Susan E. Dudley & Zhoudan Xie
Recognizing that cognitive biases can also affect regulators themselves, this article attempts to understand how the institutional environment in which regulators operate interacts with their cognitive biases. This article offers suggestions for improving the regulatory choice architecture at federal agencies by having public managers and policy makers factor in predictable biases when regulating individual behaviors or market transactions.
This paper explores the role that the regulatory impact analyses (RIAs) that agencies are required to prepare for important proposed rules play in decisions by courts about whether these rules should be upheld when they are challenged after promulgation. The results suggest that better RIAs are associated with lower likelihoods that the associated rules are later invalidated by courts, provided that the associated agency explains how it used the RIA in its decision-making. When the agency does not describe how the RIA was utilized, there is no correlation between the quality of analysis and the likelihood the regulation will be invalidated. An explanation of the RIA’s role in the agency’s decision also appears to increase the likelihood that the regulation will be invalidated by inviting an increased level of court scrutiny, and as a result, the quality of the RIA must be sufficiently high to offset this effect.
November 01, 2019 | By: Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
This article compares government transparency and public participation in consultation—a prominent instrument of policymaking innovation—across China and the United States. The analysis specifically focuses on consultation at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—leading agencies in the implementation of consultation in policymaking in their respective countries—as a means of evaluating best practices in China relative to a corresponding benchmark in the United States. The analysis reveals both similarities and differences in transparency and participation at the MOC and EPA. The findings suggest that differences in the Chinese and American political systems, rather than issues of administrative capacity, are the primary limitations of consultation as a policymaking innovation in contemporary China.
July 16, 2019 | By: Susan E. Dudley & Zhoudan Xie
Recognizing that “bounded rationality” also occurs in the regulatory process and building on public choice insights that focus on how institutional incentives affect behavior, this article explores the interaction between the institutions in which regulators operate and their cognitive biases. It attempts to understand the extent to which the “choice architecture” regulators face reinforces or counteracts predictable biases. Just as behavioral insights can help design a choice architecture that frames individual decisions in ways that encourage welfare-enhancing choices, designing the institutions that counter regulators’ cognitive errors could lead to more public-welfare-enhancing policies.
March 4, 2019 | By: Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie This article examines the institutionalization of online consultation, a prominent instrument of governance reform in China in which government officials provide interested parties with opportunities to comment on draft laws and regulations over the Internet. The analysis demonstrates that government consultation practices have institutionalized to a greater degree than the citizen feedback that occurs in response to draft laws and regulations. These results point to the conclusion that online consultation is a governance reform that has advanced transparency and (to a lesser degree) public participation, but has not eroded the Chinese Communist Party’s dominance over policymaking.
By: Zhoudan Xie & Mark Febrizio | January 19, 2022
This Regulatory Insight recaps ten important developments related to federal regulations that occurred in 2021. With the continued spread of COVID-19, regulatory responses to the pandemic are still an important theme throughout 2021, including several controversial vaccination requirements. The other themes reflect the Biden administration’s efforts to halt or undo Trump-era regulations during its initial year. President Biden issued several notable executive orders reflecting new regulatory priorities and reversing Trump’s regulatory agenda. The Biden administration and its allies in Congress repealed many Trump-era rules, through the Congressional Review Act (CRA) or notice-and-comment rulemaking. Those cover changes to immigration policies, actions for facilitating access to medical treatment, regulations implementing the Fair Housing Act, and regulatory activities addressing environmental policy. Nevertheless, these changes were predominantly made using existing regulatory authorities, rather than stemming from new congressional legislation. In some instances, the courts are involved in adjudicating whether agencies have pursued revisions in a legitimate manner.
August 18, 2021 | By: Zhoudan Xie
This commentary highlights patterns in the news-based measures of regulatory sentiment and uncertainty in 2021. Regulatory sentiment reached a historic high in May, and regulatory uncertainty rose in July. Regulation and Jobs: The Unequal Employment Effects of Regulatory Uncertainty April 28, 2021 | By: Zhoudan Xie This Regulatory Insight discusses how regulatory uncertainty may affect employment and presents some empirical evidence that increased regulatory uncertainty leads to a temporary drop in aggregate employment. Moreover, the employment effects of regulatory uncertainty are unequal, affecting workers with low levels of education disproportionately.
February 10, 2021 | By: Zhoudan Xie
The impact of regulatory policy depends on how it is designed and implemented, but public perceptions and subjective attitudes about regulation can also play important roles in how it affects the economy. Using newspaper text, I track sentiment and uncertainty about regulation until January 31, 2021 and discuss how they changed during the Trump and previous administrations in this commentary.
January 13, 2021 | By: Mark Febrizio & Zhoudan Xie
This Regulatory Insight recaps ten notable themes related to federal regulations that occurred in 2020.
September 2, 2020 | By: Zhoudan Xie
The General Services Administration unveiled a beta version of Regulations.gov with a feature that may substantially increase the ease of submitting mass comments.
July 6, 2020 | By: Zhoudan Xie
This analysis shows that the expression about regulation in the COVID-related news was negative in most days during the beginning of the virus outbreak, but it started to improve in mid-March. However, the level of uncertainty expressed in the news shows no signs of diminishing, indicating persistent uncertainty surrounding regulation in the time of COVID-19.
May 13, 2020 | By: Zhoudan Xie
Uncertainties induced by COVID-19 are worsening the economic impact of the pandemic. Policy uncertainty reached a historical peak during the past two months, while uncertainty specifically around regulatory policy appears to be muted.
April 13, 2020 | By: Zhoudan Xie
Public comments have been a valuable source of data in research studying public participation and bureaucratic behavior. Our recent report analyzes public comments from an unconventional perspective and reveals a new way for researchers to use comments as data.
February 11, 2020 | By Zhoudan Xie
GSA convened a public meeting on mass and fake comments as part of its initiative to modernize Electronic Rulemaking Management. The meeting raised several fundamental questions on the nature and impact of mass and fake comments for us to consider.
January 27, 2020 | By Zhoudan Xie and Mark Febrizio
Zhoudan Xie and Mark Febrizio recap the top ten regulatory developments in 2019.
July 23, 2019 | By: Zhoudan Xie
Regulators are humans, not robots. This simple truth reminds us that individual decision-makers responsible for developing and implementing regulations face the same cognitive limitations that consumers face in the marketplace. Institutional reforms to regulators’ choice architecture may help mitigate these biases.
June 12, 2019 | By: Zhoudan Xie
As part of a cooperative agreement with the USDA, a new GW Regulatory Studies Center report finds that growth in total regulation has a negative relationship with land productivity growth, and the relationship differs according to the form of regulation.
The Eagle and the Dragon: Comparing Government Consultation and Public Participation between the US and China
March 27, 2019 | By: Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
This commentary demonstrates an interesting comparison in government consultation and public participation between the US and China. It shows that the US and China appear to have little variation in consultation procedures and participation levels, but major divergence in the level of transparency and the type of stakeholders who participate.
January 14, 2019 | By: Mark Febrizio & Zhoudan Xie
Just as in 2017, regulatory policy continued to be a focal point of 2018 with key actions ranging from proposed rules to one agency’s establishment of a new economics office to inform regulatory decisions. While not comprehensive, this Regulatory Insight highlights ten important developments related to regulation that occurred in 2018.
September 26, 2018 | By: Mark Febrizio, Daniel R. Pérez, & Zhoudan Xie
This week marks the 25th anniversary of Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review. This document, signed by President Clinton in 1993, built on orders from previous administrations to cement the regulatory principles and centralized review that continue to guide the rulemaking process today. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrators who led this review under presidents Clinton, Bush 43, Obama, and Trump gathered Monday at the George Washington University along with government experts and scholars to discuss why these principles and processes have withstood the test of time across changes in administrations and political parties.
September 19, 2018 | By: Zhoudan Xie & Mark Febrizio
On September 12, the GW Regulatory Studies Center co-hosted an event with the Deloitte Center for Government Insights and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration on the Future of Regulation. Experts from government agencies, think tanks, private sector companies, and universities discussed how emerging technologies are impacting traditional regulatory systems. This commentary highlights key themes from the event, including the importance of regulatory humility, the alternative regulatory tools available to agencies, opportunities for regulators to improve outcomes and compliance, and the challenges associated with regulating emerging technologies.
September 05, 2018 | By: Zhoudan Xie
Building on a new report published by the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK, this commentary discusses behavioral biases of regulators. Although we usually talk about “nudging” to correct irrational choices of individual citizens, recent research demonstrates a willingness to challenge the assumption that policymakers have a better grasp on individuals’ optimal choices than the individuals themselves. This commentary explores this idea in the U.S. context, focusing on regulators’ behavior. It compares private and public decision makers, and illustrates the importance of applying behavioral insights to public decision making.
May 30, 2018 | By: Zhoudan Xie & Daniel R. Pérez
This Regulatory Insight addresses the information gap in how regulations are measured when determining their effect on economic growth and other macroeconomic measures by developing a taxonomy of regulatory forms. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this framework allows regulations to be classified by the form they employ to achieve the stated regulatory outcomes. We expect this taxonomy to also be applicable to industries outside of agriculture, and to be utilized by researchers and analysts in a wide range of fields as a framework for informing research on the relative effectiveness of different regulatory forms to address market and social problems.
March 09, 2018 | By: Christopher Carrigan & Zhoudan Xie
Although federal law specifies procedures and requirements for agencies to consider public feedback in how they design their rules, the ways in which they plan for and develop these rules internally is largely a “black box” which is far less understood by this same public, or even scholars for that matter. Yet, as a recent GW Regulatory Studies Center working paper by Christopher Carrigan and Russell Mills demonstrates, agencies can employ very different decision-making configurations to administer their internal rulemaking processes, which can have important effects on the character and timing of the resulting rules.
January 29, 2018 | By: Zhoudan Xie
This Regulatory Insight provides an overview of how regulation is measured and compared across countries, compares the available measures, and examines where the U.S. stands relative to other countries. Internationally-comparable measures of regulation are mostly constructed through the composite index approach. This Insight reviews five international regulatory indexes measuring economic freedom, business/competition friendliness, and social regulation. The indexes differ significantly in terms of the coverage of regulation, methodologies and data. Even indexes measuring the same dimension of regulation can present different results, depending on the specific variables and data chosen.
December 18, 2017 | By: Zhoudan Xie & Sofie E. Miller
This Regulatory Insight highlights ten important regulatory and deregulatory themes that garnered attention—and changed the regulatory landscape—in 2017. Regulatory policy was a focal point of 2017, and notable executive orders, rulemaking, and legislation all contributed to this theme--including the Congressional Review Act, net neutrality, the President's deregulatory agenda, and more.
November 01, 2017 | By: Zhoudan Xie
Brookings recently released a report examining President Trump’s “one-in-two-out” executive order and regulatory budget requirements. The report offers an objective and scholarly analysis of its possible motivations, as well as expected challenges and possible scenarios for its implementation. This commentary illustrates several of its key themes including the rationale for a regulatory budget, President Trump’s regulatory budget compared to similar plans in other countries, and key challenges for the implementation of the regulatory budget.
October 10, 2017 | By: Zhoudan Xie
In his new book, "Structured to Fail? Regulatory Performance under Competing Mandates," Professor Christopher Carrigan tackles a critical question: how does organizational design matter for regulatory agency behavior and performance? To answer it, Carrigan challenges several popular theories about the connections between organizational design and regulatory failures through deeply thoughtful, widely researched analysis. This review assesses the book’s empirical, theoretical and practical contributions while describing its analytical approaches and key findings.