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A Tale of Repetition: Lessons from Florida Restaurant Inspections

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This paper examines the role of repetition in government regulation using Florida restaurant inspection data from 2003 to 2010. In the raw data, inspectors new to inspected restaurants tend to report 27 percent more violations than repeat inspectors. After ruling out regulatory capture and endogenous rotation of inspectors as potential explanations, we find that the gap between new and repeat inspections is best explained by the following two effects: first, restaurants target compliance in response to the heterogeneous stringency and preferences of inspectors; second, inspectors pay greater attention in a first visit than in subsequent visits. After controlling for the heterogeneous criteria of inspectors, we find that a new inspector reports 13–18 percent more violations than noted in the second visit of the previous inspector, likely because of a higher level of attention. Counterfactual simulations highlight the importance of inspectors’ training and rotation in regulatory outcomes.

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