Man vs. Meter: Technological Promise and Political Limits of Automated Regulation Enforcement
Speaker(s)Ludovica Gazze (University of Warwick, United Kingdom)
LocationTinbergen Institute Amsterdam, room 1.01
Date and time
September 13, 2022
15:30 - 16:30
New technologies that allow perfect detection of violations at near zero marginal cost are revolutionizing regulatory enforcement. We conducted a field experiment with Fresno, CA to evaluate enforcement of outdoor water-use restrictions using smart water meters. Households were randomly assigned combinations of enforcement method (automated or in-person inspections) and fine structure. Automated enforcement increased the share of households punished for violations from 0.1 to 14%, decreased water use by 3%, and reduced violations by 17%, but fine levels had little effect. The resulting political backlash ultimately led to the program being cancelled, highlighting the limits of automated enforcement’s real-world feasibility. Joint work with Oliver R. Browne, Michael Greenstone and Olga Rostapshova.