Increased regulation leads to more deaths

Regulations mainly exist to improve safety and quality. And among the more significant safety aims of regulation is to reduce mortality. Indeed most US  regulating agencies assert that reducing mortality is often the primary benefit of most regulations targeting hazards to the environment, workplaces, and homes. Despite this assertion, however, evidence exists showing otherwise. Unintended consequences of regulations can in some cases have direct adverse effects on mortality either directly or indirectly.

Among some of the direct consequences of regulation on mortality include the following observed occurences:

Regulations targeting fuel efficients have incentivized carmakers to produce smaller, cars that are more dangerous in an accidentt (Crandall and Graham 1989).

Security regulation on flying by the Department of Homeland Security have pushed many people to drive thereby icnreasing road accidents  (Blalock, Kadiyali, and Simon, 2007).

Phasing out nuclear power plants in Germany increased use of coal and thereby resulted in increased deatsh from pollution (Jarvis, Deschenes, and Jha, 2019).

Indirectly, there is also evidence showing how increased compliance costs due to regulation can reduce disposable income. Consequentially this reduces individual expenditures on health, thereby, indirectly affecting mortality. In a recently published study, authors Dustin Chambers and James Broughel focus on this type of effect to estimate the impact of regulation on mortality.

The authors specifically estimate the relationship between federal regulations and health outcomes at the state level. To control for other factors, they utilize data that show the prevalence of chronic conditions that are mostly associated with lower income and poverty than other factors like genetics.  The authors generally find a positive relationship between mortality and regulation. “That is, as regulation levels rise so does mortality”.

Generally, robust evidence exists showing the regressive effect of regulation. The poor, are disproportionately harmed by strict regulation through increased prices. This new study is just more evidence of that phenomenon.