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.

Miller, Susan M., Christopher Witko, and Neal D. Woods. “How the Unorganized Mass Public (Sometimes) Wins in Regulatory Politics.” Political Research Quarterly. Forthcoming.
Abstract: Many scholars have argued that because consumers are poorly organized, regulatory enforcement will tend to be lax and serve the interests of industry. Considering, however, that elections are one of the main mechanisms by which the public exerts control over policy, surprisingly few studies have examined how electoral incentives may spur the government to regulate vigorously on behalf of consumers. We argue that when the threat of electoral accountability is greater, regulatory activities will serve the interests of the public, even if they impose costs on industry. We test this theoretical expectation by analyzing state regulatory activity in the wake of exogenous storms and natural disasters, which provides us with important theoretical and causal leverage. We fi nd that a more "pro-regulation" electorate and elected chief regulators acting in close proximity to elections are associated with pro-consumer regulatory action.
Woods, Neal D. and Ann O’M. Bowman. “Collective Action and the Evolution of Intergovernmental Cooperation.” Policy Studies Journal. Forthcoming.
Abstract: Voluntary cooperation among governments holds tremendous promise for solving policy problems with regional and national scope. In this paper we apply insights from the theory of institutional collective action to understand the evolution of cooperative governmental institutions. We address the question: What makes a government decide to exit an existing cooperative arrangement and join a new one with a stronger central authority? Our empirical analyses examine state choices about whether to participate in the new Interstate Compact for Juveniles or remain in an existing compact that serves the same purpose. The findings shed light on how governments make tradeoffs between their desire to maintain their autonomy and the need to overcome the transaction costs, coordination problems, and free rider problems associated with cooperative governance in order to achieve policy gains.
Woods, Neal D. “Regulatory Analysis Procedures and Political Influence on Bureaucratic Policymaking.” Regulation and Governance. Forthcoming.
Abstract: Well-known theories suggest that administrative procedures may be used as mechanisms of political control of the bureaucracy. This study investigates whether three common regulatory analysis procedures—economic impact analysis, cost-benefit analysis, and risk analysis—lead to greater influence by political officials on bureaucratic policymaking. Multivariate analyses of data from a unique survey of state administrators indicate that regulatory analysis requirements are associated with decreases in the perceived influence of elected political officials on the content of administrative rules. This association is particularly evident in cases where proposed rules are subjected to a cost-benefit test. These findings contradict prominent theories of administrative procedures, but are consistent with recent research on the political power of administrative agencies.
Monogan, James E., David M. Konisky, and Neal D. Woods. 2017. “Gone With the Wind: Federalism and the Strategic Location of Air Polluters.” American Journal of Political Science 61: 2 (April) 257-270.
Abstract: In federal systems, both state governments and firms have incentives to strategically locate polluting facilities where the environmental and health consequences will be borne as much as possible by residents of other jurisdictions. We analyze air polluter location in the United States using a spatial point pattern model, which models where events occur in latitude and longitude. Our analyses indicate that major air polluters are significantly more likely to be located near a state’s downwind border than a control group of other industrial facilities, results that are robust to a wide variety of model specifications and measurement strategies. This effect is particularly pronounced for facilities with toxic air emissions. The observed pattern of polluter location varies systematically across states and time in ways that suggest it is responsive to public policy at both the national and state levels.
DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12278
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
Policy Analysis and Evaluation SECONDARY