Inspection Technology, Detection and Compliance: Evidence from Florida Restaurant Inspections

Jungmin Lee and Ginger Jin , RAND Journal of Economics 45(4) , 885-917 , December 2014.

Many regulations mandate that government employees inspect economic entities on a regular basis. In this paper, we show that a small innovation in inspection technology can make substantial differences in inspection outcomes. For restaurant hygiene inspections, the state of Florida has introduced a handheld electronic device, the portable digital assistant (PDA), which reminds inspectors of about 1,000 potential violations that may be checked for. Using administrative data on inspections conducted from July 2003 to June 2009, we find that the adoption of PDAs led to 11% more detected violations. Subsequent inspection outcome suggests that restaurants may have increased their compliance efforts gradually. Although there could be other explanations for the inspection outcome, we find that PDA use is significantly correlated with a reduction in restaurant-related foodborne disease outbreaks.

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