Discussion paper

DP14377 Measuring Regulatory Complexity

Despite a heated debate on the perceived increasing complexity of fi nancial regulation, there is no available measure of regulatory complexity other than the mere length of regulatory documents. To fill this gap, we propose to apply simple measures from the computer science literature by treating regulation like an algorithm: a fixed set of rules that determine how an input (e.g., a bank balance sheet) leads to an output (a regulatory decision). We apply our measures to the regulation of a bank in a theoretical model, to an algorithm computing capital requirements based on Basel I, and to actual regulatory texts. Our measures capture dimensions of complexity beyond the mere length of a regulation. In particular, shorter regulations are not necessarily less complex, as they can also use more "high-level" language and concepts. Finally, we propose an experimental protocol to validate measures of regulatory complexity.


Colliard, J and C Georg (2020), ‘DP14377 Measuring Regulatory Complexity‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14377. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14377