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Rothbart article on NYC's restaurant grading policy published in Public Administration Review

Jul 27, 2019

What a Difference a Grade Makes: Evidence from New York City's Restaurant Grading Policy

Michah W. Rothbart, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Thad D. Calabrese, Zachary Papper, Todor Mijanovich, Rachel Meltzer & Diana Silver

Public Administration Review, July 2019

Michah Rothbart

Michah W. Rothbart


Amy Ellen Schwartz

Amy Ellen Schwartz


Can governments use grades to induce businesses to improve their compliance with regulations? Does public disclosure of compliance with food safety regulations matter for restaurants? Ultimately, this depends on whether grades matter for the bottom line. Based on 28 months of data on more than 15,000 restaurants in New York City, this article explores the impact of public restaurant grades on economic activity and public resources using rigorous panel data methods, including fixed-effects models with controls for underlying food safety compliance.

Results show that A grades reduce the probability of restaurant closure and increase revenues while increasing sales taxes remitted and decreasing fines relative to B grades. Conversely, C grades increase the probability of restaurant closure and decrease revenues while decreasing sales taxes remitted relative to B grades. These findings suggest that policy makers can incorporate public information into regulations to more strongly incentivize compliance.

Center for Policy Research
426 Eggers Hall