Neal D. Woods

University of South Carolina
Political Science

327 Gambrell Hall
Columbia, SC

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My research focus lies at the nexus of political institutions and public policy, with an emphasis on how differing institutional arrangements affect policy outcomes. Much of my current research focuses on federalism, including ongoing research projects on interstate competition, interstate cooperation, and environmental free riding.

Monogan, James E., David M. Konisky, and Neal D. Woods. “Gone With the Wind: Federalism and the Strategic Location of Air Polluters.” American Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming.
Karch, Andrew, Sean C. Nicholson-Crotty, Neal D. Woods, and Ann O’M. Bowman. 2016. “Policy Diffusion and the Pro-Innovation Bias.” Political Research Quarterly 69 (1):83-95.
Abstract: Existing research on policy diffusion focuses almost exclusively on “successes” where many jurisdictions adopted the policy or policies under examination. Some have speculated that this “pro-innovation bias” compromises scholars’ ability to draw valid inferences about the factors that influence the diffusion process. We argue that the study of interstate compacts in the United States provides an analytic opportunity to assess whether these concerns are warranted because it allows us to examine an entire universe of cases with unusually wide variability in their adoption patterns. Based on a pooled event history analysis of the interstate compacts that are open to all fifty states, we conclude that the tendency to limit diffusion research to widely adopted policies affects the results of previous studies. Specifically, it appears to lead scholars to systematically overestimate the impact of geographic diffusion pressures and policy attributes, and to underestimate the importance of professional associations and the opportunity to learn from previous adoptions. In sum, the longstanding concerns about a pro-innovation bias in diffusion research seem to be warranted.
DOI: 10.1177/1065912915622289
Woods, Neal D. 2015. “Separation of Powers and the Politics of Administrative Rule Review.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 15 (3):345-365.
Abstract: In many states, agency rules are subject to review and possible veto by elected political officials in the legislative and/or executive branches. The consequences of this rule review authority are little understood. Using time-series cross-section data on state environmental compliance costs, this study investigates the impact that several types of administrative rule review procedures have on the stringency of state environmental regulation. The findings suggest that (1) both gubernatorial and legislative rule review powers are systematically associated with reduced environmental compliance costs, (2) legislatures controlled by the Democratic Party use rule review powers to reduce these costs less than Republican ones, and (3) the latter effect is observable only when legislatures have the power to amend or veto rules without the approval of the governor. These results indicate that rule review plays an important, but complex, role in shaping regulatory outcomes.
DOI: 10.1177/1532440015588151
Woods, Neal D. 2015. “Regulatory Democracy Reconsidered: The Policy Impact of Public Participation Requirements.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 25 (2):571-596.
Abstract: A broad range of procedural mechanisms designed to promote public involvement in regulatory decision making have been instituted at all levels of government. Depending upon the literature one consults, one could conclude that these procedures (1) enhance regulatory stringency by fostering access by previously underrepresented groups, (2) reduce regulatory stringency by institutionalizing access by regulated industries, (3) could either increase or decrease stringency depending on the relative strength of organized interests in the agency’s external environment, or (4) have no effect. This study investigates whether mechanisms designed to promote public involvement in administrative rulemaking affect the stringency of US state environmental regulation. The results suggest that requirements to provide public notice of agency rulemaking do not have a significant effect on the regulatory compliance costs imposed on industry, but mechanisms that provide direct access to rulemaking processes serve to decrease these costs. This effect is evident for access both to the agencies promulgating environmental regulations and to external entities reviewing these regulations. For promulgating agencies, the effect does not appear to be conditional on the relative power of societal interests. The results provide some evidence, however, that political officials respond to the strength of environmental and industry groups when reviewing agency regulations.
DOI: 10.1093/jopart/mut042
Nicholson-Crotty, Sean C., Neal D. Woods, Ann O’M. Bowman, and Andrew Karch. 2014. “Policy Innovativeness and Interstate Compacts.” Policy Studies Journal 42 (2):305-324.
Abstract: Are some American states inherently more innovative than others? This question has confounded researchers for more than four decades. In this study we develop a measure of collective policy innovation that measures formal cooperative policy arrangements among the states, compare the measure to existing measures of internal state policy innovation, and assess whether existing innovativeness measures explain policy cooperation among the states. This test of the innovativeness concept addresses internal and external validity concerns that have long plagued this research tradition. Our multivariate analyses indicate that policy innovativeness is often a statistically and substantively important determinant of compact participation. These results suggest that (i) innovativeness is a meaningful and durable state attribute, (ii) several existing indices successfully capture the underlying latent concept, and (iii) innovativeness provides analytic utility in multiple empirical contexts.
DOI: 10.1111/psj.12060
Konisky, David M. and Neal D. Woods. 2012. “Environmental Free Riding in State Water Pollution Enforcement.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 12 (3):227-251.
Abstract: Interjurisdictional pollution spillovers are a critical issue in U.S. environmental policy. When policy responsibility is decentralized, state governmental agencies have incentives to promote these externalities in order to capture the benefits of economic activity within their borders while compelling neighbors to shoulder the resultant environmental costs. To test this free riding hypothesis, prior studies have relied on crude proxies to delineate a regulated entity's proximity to a neighboring state. In this article, we develop a more refined set of measures using newly available data on facility location to isolate the conditions under which free riding is theoretically more likely to occur. We then assess state enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act directed at major water polluters under these conditions to determine the extent to which U.S. states engage in environmental free riding behavior. Our empirical results are mixed, but in general they fail to support theoretical expectations generated by the free rider argument.

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation PRIMARY