• John A List
  • Daniel L Millimet

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Devolution of tasks to local levels of government has recently become a popular agenda item within certain political factions in the US. While one expects the local policymaker to tailor policies to match the preferences of his constituents, critics of local policymaking claim that externalities are ignored and inefficiencies thus arise under local control of certain policies. A primary example concerns the control of pollution, which is known to have adverse effects on neighbouring jurisdictions. Whether localities actually 'race to the bottom' and enact lax environmental policies when given the chance remains an open issue. In this study, we make use of stochastic dominance tests to examine if President Reagan's policy of 'New Federalism' in the early 1980s induced states to lower environmental standards. Among the several environmental measures analysed, we do not find any evidence that the 'race to the bottom' materialized. Indeed, the evidence shows that even during these lean years of federal intervention several indicators of environmental quality at the state level continued to improve.