versity; Jonathan Weiner, Duke University Law School; Douglas K. Owens, Stanford University; and W. Kip Viscusi, Harvard Law School. Although these individuals submitted comments, OMB is solely responsible for the final content of this Circular.

A. Introduction

This Circular is designed to assist analysts in the regulatory agencies by defining good regulatory analysis—called either “regulatory analysis” or “analysis” for brevity—and standardizing the way benefits and costs of Federal regulatory actions are measured and reported. Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to conduct a regulatory analysis for economically significant regulatory actions as defined by Section 3(f)(1). This requirement applies to rulemakings that rescind or modify existing rules as well as to rulemakings that establish new requirements.

The Need for Analysis of Proposed Regulatory Actions1

Regulatory analysis is a tool regulatory agencies use to anticipate and evaluate the likely consequences of rules. It provides a formal way of organizing the evidence on the key effects—good and bad—of the various alternatives that should be considered in developing regulations. The motivation is to (1) learn if the benefits of an action are likely to justify the costs or (2) discover which of various possible alternatives would be the most cost-effective.

A good regulatory analysis is designed to inform the public and other parts of the Government (as well as the agency conducting the analysis) of the effects of alternative actions. Regulatory analysis sometimes will show that a proposed action is misguided, but it can also demonstrate that well-conceived actions are reasonable and justified.

Benefit-cost analysis is a primary tool used for regulatory analysis.2 Where all benefits and costs can be quantified and expressed in monetary units, benefit-cost analysis provides decision makers with a clear indication of the most efficient alternative, that is, the alternative that generates the largest net benefits to society (ignoring distributional effects). This is useful information for decision makers and the public to receive, even when economic efficiency is not the only or the overriding public policy objective.


We use the term “proposed” to refer to any regulatory actions under consideration regardless of the stage of the regulatory process.


See Mishan EJ (1994), Cost-Benefit Analysis, fourth edition, Routledge, New York.

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