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Regulatory Competition and Environmental Enforcement: Is There a Race to the Bottom?


  • Previous versions of this article were presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association and the 2005 annual meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. The author would like to thank Steve Ansolabehere, Ana De La O, Steve Meyer, Riccardo Puglisi, Charles Stewart, Michiko Ueda, Adam Ziegfeld, and three anonymous reviewers for valuable comments. The author would also like to thank Mary Curtis and Charles Tamulonis at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their help in obtaining data analyzed in this article. This work was financially supported by a fellowship from the Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation, as well as by the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

David M. Konisky is assistant professor, Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs, 105 Middlebush Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211 (


This article examines several of the key hypotheses suggested by the race to the bottom theory in environmental regulation. The research studies annual state-level enforcement of federal air, water, and hazardous waste pollution control regulation, covering the period from 1985 to 2000. Specifically, the study estimates a series of strategic interaction models to examine whether a state's environmental regulatory behavior is influenced by the regulatory behavior of the states with which it competes for economic investment. While there is clear evidence of strategic interaction in state environmental regulatory behavior, states do not respond in the asymmetric manner suggested by the race to the bottom theory.