Are Risk Regulators Rational? Evidence from Hazardous Waste Cleanup Decisions
Viscusi, W. Kip
Hamilton, James, 1961-
Using original data on the cleanup of 130 hazardous waste sites, we examine the degree Superfund decisions are driven by efficiency concerns, biases in risk perceptions, and political factors. Target risk levels chosen by regulators are largely a function of political variables and risk perception biases. Regulators exhibit biases consistent with anchoring and the availability heuristic, and do not distinguish between current risks to actual residents and potential risks to hypothetically exposed populations. Quantile regressions indicate that political factors affect decisions on the cost per case of cancer averted, especially for the most inefficient cleanup efforts.