Overview

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Federal regulations—rules that are authorized by Congress but written by regulatory agencies and that have the force of law—affect every aspect of our economy. By 2016, there were more than 1.08 million individual regulatory restrictions, which are instances of terms such as shall, must, may not, prohibited, and required, in the Code of Federal Regulations. This buildup of regulations is not benign. A recent study found that, if the number of regulatory restrictions had been held at the level observed in 1980, then by 2012 the US economy would have grown to be about 25 percent larger than it actually was. Other recent research suggests that the costs of regulations fall disproportionately on low-income households.

Federal regulations apply in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state’s economy, however, includes a unique mix of industries, and different industries are affected by different federal regulations. This means that, even though federal regulations apply in every state, the impact of those regulations varies from state to state. The FRASE index measures the relative force of federal regulations on each state’s private sector by counting the individual regulatory restrictions targeting each industry and weighting them by each industry’s importance to a state.

In 2015, West Virginia experienced the seventh highest impact of federal regulations. With a current-basis score of 1.19 , the impact of federal regulations on West Virginia’s private sector was 19 percent greater than the impact of federal regulations on the nation overall. A FRASE score of 1 would mean that federal regulations affect a state to precisely the same degree that they affect the nation as a whole. This information, as well as West Virginia’s constant-basis scores over time, can be found in table 1.1

Table 1: Historical FRASE Scores and Rankings for West Virginia
Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Rank 4 5 7 5 5 6 7 11 10 9 7
FRASE Score 1.25 1.21 1.17 1.21 1.22 1.18 1.17 1.14 1.15 1.15 1.19
FRASE Score (Constant Basis) 1.46 1.44 1.44 1.52 1.58 1.56 1.6 1.63 1.71 1.76 1.85
figure 1: Top Industries by Contribution to West Virginia FRASE Score
figure 1: Top Industries by Contribution to West Virginia FRASE Score

The industry that contributes the most to West Virginia’s FRASE score is Mining, Except Oil and Gas. This industry makes up 8.8 percent of West Virginia’s private-sector economy. With 14,946 estimated relevant restrictions in 2015, regulations on Mining, Except Oil and Gas account for 22.4 percent of West Virginia’s FRASE score. The top regulatory agencies for Mining, Except Oil and Gas are shown in figure 2.

figure 2: Top Regulatory Agencies for Mining, Except Oil and Gas
figure 2: Top Regulatory Agencies for Mining, Except Oil and Gas

Regulatory agencies, however, can affect more than one industry and can therefore impact West Virginia’s private sector in multiple ways. Figure 3 shows the five agencies that contribute the most to West Virginia’s FRASE score through the regulations they produced. The single agency with the largest impact on West Virginia’s economy is the Environmental Protection Agency, which accounts for 33.6 percent of the total federal regulatory impact on West Virginia.

Figure 3: Top Regulatory Agencies by Contribution to West Virginia’s FRASE Score
Figure 3: Top Regulatory Agencies by Contribution to West Virginia’s FRASE Score

The FRASE index can help West Virginia’s citizens and policymakers consider the impact of federal regulations in their state and determine whether that impact is adequately represented in the current debate about regulation. See the Mercatus Center’s primer on comprehensive regulatory reform for possible improvements to our current regulatory system.


  1. The constant-basis FRASE score measures the impact of federal regulations on a state in a specific year relative to the United States as a whole in the year 1997. The current-basis FRASE score measures the impact of federal regulations on a state in a specific year relative to the United States as a whole in that same year.