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Regulations in Pages

Researchers who study changes in the size and strength of government recognize that there are a number of problems relying on pages in the Federal Register. As a single measure, it is a poor indicator of the state-federal relationship. For example, there are many rules that are "short" in terms of page count, but costly in terms of its effects on state governments. Similarly, one can find may examples of long and complicated rules that do not cost the states much to enforce. Given these limitations, the purpose of this page is to help users get a sense of the size and scope of regulatory activity over time. Page counts - while obviously a very crude measure - can provide a simple but dramatic illustration of the sheer size of federal regulatory activity over the decades.

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Law Review

Highlights

1.

61,308 pages were added in 2017, including blank pages. Analysts have noted that this number is the lowest annual page count since 1993.

2.

By one measure, President Trump added 36 percent less (in “net” page count) than President Obama (comparing 2016 to 2017).

3.

Obama’s 2016 net page count is considered by analysts to be the highest level in the history of the Federal Register.

Sources

Recommended

  • "Federal Register, 1936 to Present." (GovInfo 2019)

  • "About the Federal Register ." (National Archives)

  • "Counting Pages of Regulations is a Waste of Time (and Paper)" (Wagner 2018)

  • The Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University tracks and updates the Reg Stats page. The page includes helpful terminology and analysis of the advantages and limits of using crude proxies (like page numbers) to understand the scope and impact of regulatory activity.

CCS Commentary

  • Scholars have compared the magnitude of various increases and decreases in the page count. The highest magnitude page drop occurred under Ronald Reagan, who reduced the count from Jimmy Carter’s 73,258 pages in 1980 to 44,812 in 1986. 

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