At the Regulatory Front Lines: Inspectors' Enforcement Styles and Regulatory Compliance

May, Peter J.; Wood, Robert S.
April 2003
Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory;Apr2003, Vol. 13 Issue 2, p117
Academic Journal
This study contributes to the understanding of how those street-level bureaucrats who are at the front lines of regulatory enforcement help to bring about compliance with regulations. Hypotheses concerning the impact of inspectors' differing enforcement styles on compliance are examined for data concerning municipal enforcement of building codes. Building inspectors vary in their day-to-day style of interaction with homebuilders with respect to facilitation� how helpful and supportive they are�and with respect to formalism-how rigid and picky they are. We fail to find a direct effect of differing enforcement styles on compliance. However, enforcement styles influence homebuilders' knowledge of rules and the degree of cooperation between homebuilders and inspectors. We attribute the limited impact of enforcement style to inconsistencies in inspection that tend to immunize homebuilders to stylistic differences among inspectors. This suggests a downside to "responsive regulation" as a preferred mode of regulatory enforcement: such inconsistencies undermine regulatees' understanding of rules and the development of shared expectations concerning compliance.


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