2016 Annual Conference

Agenda & Abstracts
Workshop Offerings

The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) is an international group of practitioners, academics and others who are working to improve the theory and application of the tools of benefit-cost analysis. Please join us at our Eighth Annual Conference and Meeting.

Primary sponsorship of the 2016 conference is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional sponsors include: American Chemistry Council, The GW Regulatory Studies Center and Stata Corp LP. 

Conference Program

The conference program agenda is now available, and presentation abstracts are online. **Please note that the information in this program is preliminary and subject to change before and/or during the annual conference.**

 Final conference program book.pdf

This year's keynote address will be a discussion on benefit-cost analysis and regulatory reform with Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) of North Dakota and Senator James Lankford (R) of Oklahoma, moderated by SBCA President Susan Dudley. Chairman James Lankford and Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp lead the Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Senate Subcomittee. Their address will take place during lunch on Thursday, March 17. 


2016 Program Committee

  • Susan Dudley, Chair (GW Regulatory Studies Center)

  • Richard Belzer (Regulatory Checkbook)

  • Sandra Hoffmann (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

  • Lynn Karoly (RAND Corporation)

  • Don Kenkel (Cornell University)

  • Clark Nardinelli (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

  • Emile Quinet (Ecole des Ponts-Paris)

  • Stuart Shapiro (Rutgers University)

  • Anne Smith (NERA Economic Consulting)

  • Craig Thornton (Mathematica Policy Research)

  • Gary VanLandingham (The Pew Charitable Trusts)

  • Jack Wells (retired - U.S. Department of Transportation)

2016 Workshop Subcommittee

  • Aylin Sertkaya, Chair (Eastern Research Group)

  • Susan Dudley (GW Regulatory Studies Center)

  • Elisabeth Gilmore (University of Maryland)

  • Lynn Karoly (RAND Corporation)

  • Lisa Robinson (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis)

  • Stuart Shapiro (Rutgers University)

  • Darcy White (The Pew Charitable Trusts)



Please find below the preliminary agenda and abstracts for the 2016 Annual Conference and Meeting: Improving the Theory and Practice of Benefit-Cost Analysis. 

Download the full set of presentation abstracts here:   2016 SBCA Conference Abstracts 3.9.16.pdf

Wednesday, March 16

  • 8:00 9:00       Registration for morning workshops

  • 9:00 12:30     Professional Development Workshops

  • 12:30 1:30     Lunch (provided for those registered for morning and afternoon sessions)

  • 1:00 1:30       Afternoon workshop registration

  • 1:30 5:00       Professional Development Workshops

  • 5:00 6:30       Opening Reception (for all registered workshop and conference participants)

Thursday, March 17

Friday, March 18


SBCA 2016 Workshop Offerings


Retrospective Benefit-Cost Analysis

Organizer: Jennifer Baxter, Industrial Economics, Incorporated


While prospective benefit-cost analysis is a well-established component of the regulatory development process in the United States and other developed economies, retrospective analysis is less commonly undertaken. Yet such analysis provides important insights into how to best improve existing regulations, as well as into how to improve the conduct of prospective analysis. Retrospective analysis is now strongly encouraged under Executive Order 13563 for significant federal regulations, and is increasingly advocated in many other policy contexts in the United States and internationally.

Many presume that retrospective analysis will be more accurate than prospective analysis, assuming that analysts can simply sum the incurred costs and benefits. In reality, retrospective analysis is very challenging and often highly uncertain. The most difficult step is disentangling the incremental effects of the policy from the effects of other factors that influence current conditions, so as to compare outcomes in the relevant setting with the policy against counterfactual (and hypothetical) outcomes in the same setting had the policy never been adopted.

This workshop brings together four leading experts with diverse perspectives to discuss both the institutional context for these analyses and their conduct. It is targeted on both those interested in conducting these analyses and those interested in better understanding the strengths and limitations of analyses they review. Prior to the workshop, participants will receive a list of optional readings. The workshop itself will consist of a series of presentations with ample time for discussion. There are no prerequisites or requirements for participation.

Preliminary Agenda (subject to change)

9:00 9:45

Introduction & Institutional Frameworks and Processes (Cary Coglianese, University of Pennsylvania)

9:45 - 10:30

Fundamentals of Conducting Retrospective Benefit-Cost Analysis (Jennifer Baxter, Industrial Economics, Incorporated)

10:30 - 10:45 Break (with refreshments)
10:45 11:30

Insights from Program Evaluation (David Bernstein, Westat)

11:30 12:15 Example(s) of Recent Analyses (Richard Morgenstern, Resources for the Future)
12:15 - 12:30 Wrap-up (Jennifer Baxter)



Use of Expert Elicitation in Benefit-cost Analyses

Organizer: Aylin Sertkaya, Eastern Research Group


Decision makers must frequently rely on data or information that is incomplete or inadequate in one way or another. Judgment, often from experts and occasionally from non-experts, then plays a critical role in the interpretation and characterization of those data as well as in the completion of information gaps. Further, OMB expects agencies to examine relevant uncertainties in benefit-cost analyses of especially complex rules that exceed the $1 billion annual threshold using simulation models and/or expert judgment (OMB Circular A-4). But how experts or other stakeholders are selected and their judgments elicited matters they can also strongly influence the opinions obtained and the analysis on which they rely.

Several approaches to eliciting expert judgments have evolved. The workshop will cover topics ranging from expert recruitment, elicitation protocol design, different elicitation techniques (e.g., individual elicitations, Delphi method, nominal group technique, etc.) to aggregation methods for combining opinions of multiple experts. The role of expert elicitation and its limitations, problems, and risks in policy analysis will also be addressed. The workshop will include presentation of two case studies that will include a discussion of the selection process; elicitation protocol development, elicitation technique utilized, and the various issues that arose before, during, and after the elicitation process and the manner in which they were resolved. The class will conclude with a hands-on exercise where participants will learn about the importance of pre-elicitation training for calibrating experts.

Participation in this workshop will benefit economists, policy analysts and decision analysts. There are no prerequisites or requirements for attending this workshop.

Preliminary Agenda (subject to change)

1:30 - 1:45

Introduction to workshop-Motivation for having this workshop and its relevance for benefit-cost analyses (Aylin Sertkaya, ERG)

1:45 - 2:15

A quick guide to eliciting opinions for decision-making Introduction to the process as a whole (Aylin Sertkaya, ERG)

2:15 - 3:00

Case Study 1: Pilot Expert Elicitation Study of Uncertainty in VSL When Applied in an Air Pollution Context (Henry Roman, Industrial Economics)

3:00 - 3:15 Break (with refreshments)
3:15 - 4:00

Case Study 2: Effectiveness of Pre- & Post Harvest Practices in Reducing Salmonella Contamination Risk in Fresh and Fresh-Cut Tomatoes (Cristina McLaughlin, FDA)

4:00 - 5:00 Hands-on Exercise: Effect of Training on Expert Judgment (Frank Hearl, NIOSH)


Benefit-Cost Analysis, Risk Assessment, and Regulatory Review

Organizer: Stuart Shapiro, Rutgers University


The regulatory review process by the Office of Management and Budget is often the source of controversy but is rarely understood by those outside the government. In this session, four academics with extensive experience in the federal government will explain the regulatory review process and the roles of benefit-cost analysis and risk assessment in these reviews.

Speakers will describe the process of regulatory review from both the perspectives of OMB and from the regulating agencies. This review of the process will be followed by a substantive (but not technical) discussion of benefit-cost analysis and risk assessment.

The target audience for this workshop will be those who wish to better understand OMB review of regulations. This could include representatives of organizations affected by regulation, agency personnel new to the regulatory process, or anyone wishing to better understand how regulations are reviewed.

Preliminary Agenda (subject to change)

1:30 - 2:15

Introduction and Overview of Regulatory Review (Stuart Shapiro)

2:15 - 2:30

Regulatory Review from a Desk Officer Perspective (Drew Perraut)

2:30 - 3:00

Agencies and the Regulatory Review Process (Neil Eisner)

3:00 - 3:10 Break (with refreshments)
3:10 - 3:20

Introduction to Risk Assessment and BCA (Drew Perraut)

3:20 - 4:00 Risk Assessment (George Gray)
4:00 - 4:45 Benefit-Cost Analysis (Randy Lutter)
4:45 - 5:00 Wrap-up and evaluations

Using RegData to Estimate the Cumulative Effects of Regulation and in Other Benefit-Cost Applications

Organizer: Patrick McLaughlin, Mercatus Center, George Mason University


This workshop, delivered as a short course in five modules, will explain the regulatory database, RegData, and describe how attendees can use RegData in research and policy analysis. First, we will introduce RegData, including:

  • Why we made RegData

  • The methodology behind RegData

  • What RegData does and doesnt measure

  • Future versions.

Second, we will discuss RegDatas advanced features, including the machine-learning algorithm used for industry classification and the public law database. Well cover:

  • Why we classify regulations by industry

  • An overview of our algorithms

  • Other datasets to merge with RegData; Merging code in Stata, R, and Python will be provided.

  • Converting RegData NAICS-based classifications to other classification regimes. Code in Stata, R, and Python will be provided.

The third module will focus on the RegData Public Law Database (PLDB)a companion database associating Congressional acts with regulations authorized. Topics will include:

  • How restrictions are associated with individual laws

  • How to combine the PLDB with RegData

  • How to avoid common pitfalls when using the PLDB.

The fourth and fifth modules will review studies that have used RegData to advance our knowledge of the benefits and costs of regulation. The fourth module will focus on structural models that estimate the effects of regulatory accumulation, while the fifth will review reduced-form applications of the database. We will also discuss some known econometrics issues and solutions.

Audience: Researchers/analysts (academic or government) interested in cumulative effects of regulation; applied economists

Prerequisites: Attendees should know basic regression analysis and have some knowledge of the federal regulatory process.

Preliminary Agenda (subject to change)

1:30 - 2:00

Module 1: What is RegData? (Dr. Patrick A. McLaughlin, Mercatus Center at GMU)

2:00 - 2:45

Module 2: Advanced Features for Researchers (Oliver Sherouse, Mercatus Center at GMU)

2:45 - 3:00

Break (with refreshments)

3:00 - 3:45

Module 3: The RegData Public Law Database (Oliver Sherouse, Mercatus Center at GMU)

3:45 - 4:30

Module 4: Structural Models that Estimate the Cumulative Effects of Regulation (Dr. Bentley Coffey, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University)

4:30 - 5:00 Module 5: Reduced Form Applications of RegData in Benefits- and Costs-focused Research, and Some Econometrics Tips (Dr. Patrick A. McLaughlin, Mercatus Center at GMU)