Jerry Ellig

Jerry Ellig is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a former assistant professor of economics at George Mason University. He specializes in the federal regulatory process, economic regulation, and telecommunications regulation.

Ellig has published numerous articles on government regulation and business management in both scholarly and popular periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Barron’s, the Washington Post, Regulation & Governance, Risk Analysis, Administrative Law Review, Journal of Regulatory Economics, and the New York University Journal of International Law and Politics. His most recent book, coauthored with his Mercatus colleagues Maurice McTigue and Henry Wray, is Government Performance and Results: An Evaluation of GPRA’s First Decade.

Previously, Ellig was deputy director and acting director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He also served as senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress.

Ellig received his MA and PhD in economics from George Mason University and his BA in economics from Xavier University.

Published Research

Jerry Ellig, Patrick McLaughlin | May 2016
We assess the effects of both regulatory changes on railroad safety with the use of RegData and find that partial economic deregulation is associated with improved safety. Safety regulation was most closely associated with improved railroad safety during the period when economic regulation curtailed railroads’ incentives to operate safely.
Jerry Ellig, Christopher J. Conover | Nov 18, 2014
Elected leaders delegate rulemaking to federal agencies, then seek to influence rulemaking through top-down directives and statutory deadlines. This paper documents an unintended consequence of these control strategies: they reduce regulatory agencies’ ability and incentive to conduct high-quality economic analysis to inform their decisions.
Jerry Ellig | Jul 23, 2013
For nearly four decades, presidential administrations have required executive branch regulatory agencies to identify the problem they are trying to address and assess its significance, examine a wide range of alternative solutions, estimate the costs and benefits of the alternatives, and regulate only when the benefits justify the costs. In 1993, President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866 laid out the fundamental requirements that have governed regulatory analysis and review ever since. In January 2011, President Obama’s Executive Order 13563 reaffirmed the principles and processes articulated in the Clinton executive order:…
Patrick McLaughlin, Jerry Ellig, John Morrall | Jun 01, 2013
This paper compares the quality and use of regulatory analysis accompanying economically significant regulations proposed by US executive branch agencies in 2008, 2009, and 2010. We find that the quality of regulatory analysis is generally low, but varies widely.

Working Papers

Jerry Ellig | Jul 06, 2016
Executive Order 12866, which governs regulatory analysis and review in the executive branch, requires federal agencies to conduct a regulatory impact analysis (RIA) for all economically significant regulations. (An “economically significant” regulation has economic effects of at least $100 million annually or satisfies other criteria listed in the executive order.) The purpose of this analysis is to understand the problem the regulation aims to solve, identify alternative solutions, and assess the benefits and costs of the alternatives, in order to create regulations that solve real problems at a reasonable cost. In 2009, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University initiated the Regulatory Report Card project to assess how well executive branch agencies conduct regulatory analysis. In a new study for the Mercatus Center, senior research fellow Jerry Ellig uses the data from this project to examine the quality of RIAs for all economically significant, prescriptive regulations proposed between 2008 and 2013. Report Card evaluations reveal that regulatory agencies often adopt regulations that affect several hundred million Americans and impose billions of dollars of costs without knowing whether the regulation will solve a significant problem, whether a more effective solution exists, or whether a more targeted solution could achieve the same result for a lower cost. Extensive statistical analysis of the scores suggests that institutional reforms are the most promising means of improving the quality and use of regulatory analysis.
Jerry Ellig, Michael Horney | Jun 21, 2016
When Congress passes legislation that mandates prescriptive regulations, legislators are under no obligation to understand the problem they are trying to solve, assess alternative solutions, or understand the benefits and costs of their choices. Passage of the positive train control mandate in response to several high-profile train accidents amply illustrates how haphazardly the legislative branch can authorize regulations. Congressional hearings and committee reports on the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 contain no analysis of the causes and extent of the safety problem, alternative solutions, and the benefits and costs of alternatives to this $12.5 billion mandate. Given that major regulations are often required by statute, the time has come for Congress to subject regulatory legislation to the same kind of analysis that presidents have required regulatory agencies to conduct for more than three decades.
Jerry Ellig, Richard Williams | Aug 13, 2014
The number of regulations and their economic impact continue to grow. Yet the quality and use of economic analysis to inform regulatory decisions falls far short of the standards enunciated in executive orders governing regulatory analysis and review.
Hester Peirce, Jerry Ellig | Mar 31, 2014
SEC Regulatory Analysis: “A Long Way to Go and a Short Time to Get There”…


Policy Briefs

Jerry Ellig, James Broughel, Spencer Bell | Mar 09, 2016
For more than three decades, presidents have required executive branch regulatory agencies to identify the systemic problems they wish to solve when issuing major regulatory actions. The first principle in Executive Order 12866, which governs executive branch regulatory review, is that an agency shall “identify the problem that it intends to address (including, where applicable, the failures of private markets or public institutions that warrant new agency action) as well as assess the significance of that problem.” This principle reflects the sensible notion that before proposing regulation, regulators should understand the root cause of the problem the proposed regulation is supposed to solve.
Jerry Ellig, Sherzod Abdukadirov | Jan 27, 2015
A research team from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has assessed the quality and use of regulatory analysis accompanying every economically significant, prescriptive regulation proposed by executive branch regulatory agencies between 2008 and 2012.
Jerry Ellig, Jesse Martinez | Jan 20, 2015
Dealers wasted no time petitioning Congress to reverse the planned dealer terminations. The 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3288) included a provision, Section 747, which provided the opportunity for “covered dealerships” to reacquire franchises terminated on or before April 29, 2009 through an arbitration process. The provision affected all 2,789 dealerships slated for termination; however, the total count of dealers who decided to file paperwork to enter the process was 1,575. Of the cases that went to hearings, arbitrators allowed the manufacturers to close 111 dealerships and ruled in favor of 55 dealers. The other cases were settled or withdrawn.
Jerry Ellig | Jan 15, 2015
On the eve of its abolition in 1981, the Council on Wage and Price Stability (CWPS) pointed out that regulations were often imposed without a clear understanding of the problem they were supposed to solve, a realistic examination of a range of options for solving the problem, and a benefit-cost analysis of each option.

Testimony & Comments

Jerry Ellig | Jan 12, 2016
Virtually all states require auto manufacturers to sell new vehicles through local franchised dealers, protect dealers from competition in Relevant Market Areas, and terminate franchises with existing dealers only after proving they have a “good cause” to do so. In 1979, fewer than half of all states regulated all three of these aspects of the manufacturer-dealer relationship. By 2014, all but one state regulated every single one of these aspects. These state laws harm consumers by insulating dealers from competition and forestalling experimentation with new business models for auto retailing in the twenty-first century.
Jerry Ellig | Dec 09, 2015
The first fundamental question for policymakers in this area is defining the policy goal. I believe the appropriate goal of competition policy related to online platforms should be the promotion of consumer welfare—a concept rigorously defined in the economics literature. Consumer welfare is maximized when every unit of every resource is employed in the use that consumers value most highly. Competition policy agencies in the United States typically regard consumer welfare as the sole goal of competition policy. Even if policymakers choose to pursue goals other than consumer welfare, they need to understand the impact of policies on consumer welfare so they can act with full information of the relevant tradeoffs.
Jerry Ellig | Dec 09, 2015
Citizens expect federal regulation to accomplish a lot of important things, such as protecting us from financial fraudsters, preventing workplace injuries, preserving clean air, and deterring terrorist attacks. Regulation also requires sacrifices; there is no free lunch. Depending on the regulation, consumers may pay more, workers may receive less, our retirement savings may grow more slowly due to reduced corporate profits, and we may have less privacy or less personal freedom. Given the important values at stake, Congress and regulatory agencies should craft regulations with full knowledge of their results. Decision-making in the dark should not be an option.
Jerry Ellig | Feb 25, 2015
Debates over regulatory process reform often take a distinctly partisan tone. But the fundamental conflict in the debate over regulatory process reform is not Republicans versus Democrats, liberals versus conservatives, or even business versus the public. It’s knowledge versus ignorance. Decision makers should choose knowledge over ignorance.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Jerry Ellig | Jun 20, 2015
In June 2015, the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board issued a report with recommendations to update and modernize economic regulation of rail freight transportation. Jerry Ellig served as a member of the committee that prepared the report. This presentation, given to the National Industrial Transportation League’s Railroad Transportation Committee in November 2015, summarizes the report’s main recommendations.
Jerry Ellig | Mar 20, 2014
Jerry Ellig's presents arguments for improved regulatory impact analysis at the College of Charleston.
Jerry Ellig | Jan 14, 2010
Jerry Ellig participated in panel discussion before Texas policy makers in Austin, Texas at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Policy Orientation on the future of the Texas Public Utility…
Jerry Ellig | Nov 05, 2009
Jerry Ellig was invited to give a lecture at Pepperdine University about the future of regulations in the federal government.

Expert Commentary

Aug 17, 2016

Rather than slashing regulations willy-nilly, these three reforms would help protect us from those regulatory burdens that do more harm than good.
Jun 06, 2016

Both Congress and the USDA decided to regulate with reckless disregard for the facts. Lawmakers could correct this error by passing a new law that nullifies the regulation, but the law cannot take effect unless it is signed by President Obama, whose administration wrote the regulation.
Feb 05, 2016

A rational regulatory system would require agencies to understand the nature and significance of the problem they’re addressing before they decide what regulations to write. One way to encourage agencies to do so is to require them to publish their analysis of the problem for public comment before they publish a proposed regulation.
Jul 20, 2015

Thirty-five years ago, President Jimmy Carter signed the Staggers Rail Act, which largely deregulated freight railroads. Deregulation reduced rail rates for most shippers, restored railroads to profitability, and eliminated the risk that taxpayers would be on the hook for future railroad bailouts. But unfortunately, several contentious issues perpetually threaten to prompt ill-considered legislation or renewed regulation. A recent report from a Transportation Research Board committee, on which I served, proposes targeted solutions to these problems.


Jerry Ellig


Jerry Ellig, Maurice P. McTigue, Henry Wray | Sep 08, 2011
Summarizing the lessons learned from 10 years of research that evaluated the performance reports produced by federal agencies, the book assesses how the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) has affected the quality of agency performance reporting.


Jerry Ellig | May 29, 2015
The FCC is considering offering subsidies for broadband internet service for economically underpriviledged people. Jerry Ellig discusses the proposal on the Tim Farley Show on POTUS (Sirius XM)
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