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Discussion Paper

Slippery Fish: Enforcing Regulation when Agents Learn and Adapt

Attempts to curb undesired behavior through regulation gets complicated when agents can adapt to circumvent enforcement. We test a model of enforcement with learning and adaptation, by auditing vendors selling illegal fish in Chile in a randomized controlled trial, and tracking them daily using mystery shoppers. Conducting audits on a predictable schedule and (counter-intuitively) at high frequency is less effective, as agents learn to take advantage of loopholes.