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Preview: Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory - current issue

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory Current Issue

Published: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2017 13:05:56 GMT


Does Benchmarking Encourage Improvement or Convergence? Evaluating North Carolina’s Fiscal Benchmarking Tool


Several states monitor the fiscal health of their local governments by “benchmarking” them—using a suite of financial indicators to track performance over time. Benchmarking of public organizations can facilitate performance management, leading to the spread of best practices and improved organizational performance. It is also possible that benchmarking, absent other performance routines, could create isomorphic pressures that encourage local governments to adopt policies that converge performance or financial indicators towards the group mean. This article tests these hypotheses using the introduction of North Carolina’s financial benchmarking tool in 2010. We construct a panel of the 14 indicators used to assess and compare the financial positions of North Carolina county and municipal governments from fiscal year 2008 to 2014. We find support for isomorphism as the dispersion of several indicators declined in the post-implementation period without offsetting beneficial changes in the mean indicator value. These findings pose a dilemma for the quantitative evaluation of both benchmarking and performance management systems; could offsetting changes result in null findings at the mean of the distribution?

The Liaison Office for Personnel Management and Its Role in Shaping Federal Human Resource Management


LeeMordecai. 2016. A Presidential Civil Service: FDR’s Liaison Office for Personnel Management. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press. 240pp. $49.95 (Print and E Book).

Black in Blue: Racial Profiling and Representative Bureaucracy in Policing Revisited


This study examines the association between the degree to which a police force is ethnically representative of the population it serves and the force’s engagement in racial profiling as a policing tactic. Evidence for this study comes from English and Welsh police forces that implemented force-specific recruitment targets for officers from ethnic minority backgrounds between 2000 and 2010. Results suggest that an increase in the proportion of ethnic minorities on a police force is significantly associated with a decrease in the proportion of ethnic minorities that are stopped and searched by that police force. We also examine whether the effects of representative bureaucracy accrue nonlinearly or dynamically. This analysis failed to produce strong evidence for the “reform fatigue” and “diversity fatigue” hypotheses. Finally, we demonstrate that active representation has primarily occurred in forces in which racial profiling was intensively used as a policing tactic. These findings have implications for the democratic legitimacy of representative bureaucracy.

The Impact of Administrative Structure on the Ability of City Governments to Overcome Functional Collective Action Dilemmas: A Climate and Energy Perspective


Fragmented authority and service responsibilities within governments can impact the design and implementation of policy. Administrative structures can play an important role in mitigating the challenges associated with coordinating activities across independent units within city government. In this study, we use the broad policy arena of sustainability as a testbed to explore “Functional Collective Action” problems and the consequences of cities’ administrative design on the portfolio of policy actions related to energy and climate protection. Empirical analyses of survey data from a national sample of local governments indicate that political institutions, government capacity, and community support influence, to varying degrees, administrative structures related to sustainability initiatives. Our analyses also suggest that these are not inconsequential decisions, since they influence the extent to which cities achieve greater policy integration.

Partisan Advisers as Policy Workers: The Exceptionalism Put in Perspective


CraftJonathan. 2016. Backrooms and Beyond—Partisan Advisers and the Politics of Policy Work in Canada.Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. 304 pp. Hardcover: $46; Paperback $21.

Compared to What? How Social and Historical Reference Points Affect Citizens’ Performance Evaluations


The question of what is “good” or “poor” performance is difficult to answer without applying a reference point—a standard for comparison. Citizens’ evaluation of performance information will, therefore, tend to be guided by reference points. We test how reference points alter citizens’ evaluation of organizational performance. In this article, drawing on Herbert Simon, we test how citizens use historical (internal) and social (external) reference points when making relative comparisons: how important is current performance relative to past performance? And how important is current performance relative to the performance of other organizations? Two experiments are embedded within a large nationally representative sample of citizens (n = 3,443). The experiments assign historical and social reference points for performance data on education and unemployment to citizens. We find that citizens’ performance evaluation is fundamentally a relative process. Interestingly, we show that social reference points are almost twice as important in citizens’ evaluations as historical reference points. We find some evidence of a negativity bias in citizens’ relative evaluations. The strong social reference point effects have implications for studying citizens’ response to performance and how managers can frame and manipulate external performance data.

Administrative Centralization and Bureaucratic Responsiveness: Evidence from the Food Stamp Program


Delegation of administrative authority is commonly thought to involve a tradeoff between the discretion necessary for bureaucratic effectiveness and democratic responsiveness. In many contexts, however, discretion and responsiveness go hand-in-hand: Street-level bureaucrats may adapt their behavior to accommodate local norms and values, even when implementing the identical statutory language. I argue that this type of bureaucratic adaptation can explain local variation in participation rates in the national food stamp program. By exploiting between-state differences in the level at which the program is administered, I further show that administrative centralization does not appear to moderate such responsiveness, which is high across institutional settings. Using data on application denial rates for a subset of these states, I offer additional evidence that some of the county-level variation in program participation is a product of decisions made by local caseworkers. Together, these findings offer important insights on the institutional preconditions for bureaucratic responsiveness and control.

Where Do Policy Innovations Come From?


TeodoroManuel P.. 2011. Bureaucratic Ambition: Careers, Motives, and the Innovative Administrator. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 240 pp. $48.

Agency Performance Challenges and Agency Politicization


In this article we evaluate the relationship between political control and bureaucratic performance using information requested by researchers via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Congress via congressional committee requests. The information requested was the same, and the timing of requests was similar. We find modest evidence of a relationship between agency politicization and a lack of responsiveness to requests for information from the public and Congress. Politicized agencies are slower to respond to requests even when controlling for agency size and workload. There is little evidence, however, that these agencies are more likely to respond poorly when they do respond. The difficulties in responding appear to be due to poor performance of the FOIA offices, either because political actors focus more on other agency activities or because of poorer management agency-wide. We conclude that efforts to make agencies responsive to elected officials may hurt management performance.

Balancing Relations and Results in Regional Networks of Public-Policy Implementation


Regional networks have become popular routes for central governments to translate national ambitions into regional policies and actions; but these networks face challenges, having to balance between the dual objectives of obtaining short-term goals and establishing enduring network relations. This empirical article addresses the question as to whether there is any tension between these objectives, and if so, how can it be explained and managed. We report two studies on regional networks in the public-policy areas of Education and Employment in the Netherlands. Multiple methods were used: Interviews, surveys, archival records, social network data, and participatory observations. The findings suggest that this tension exists, and that it is especially found in young networks; more mature networks demonstrate better balance between network relations and goal attainment. Network governance was found to be a key explanatory factor whereby a network which had an administrative organization with a merely facilitative role, performed best in both respects.

Compensating for Poor Performance with Promotional Symbols: Evidence from a Survey Experiment


Extant literature regarding citizens’ responses to government public communications focuses on the roles of transparency and provision of information. Conversely, the effect of strategically designed symbols, which are integral to most public communications, received limited attention. Building on social psychology and marketing research, we theorize that familiar promotional symbols enhance citizens’ positive attitudes toward government through “evaluative conditioning,” yet this effect is conditioned by citizens’ experiences of actual government performance. We test these expectations via a survey experiment, which examines participants’ responses to a familiar promotional symbol of an Israeli state-owned electricity monopoly, given near-random variation in their experiences of prolonged power outages. We find that exposure to the well-known symbol enhances participants’ favorable attitudes toward the organization, and that this effect extends to those who recently experienced poor electricity services. The effect is significant in relation to participants’ trust in the organization, but not regarding their satisfaction and performance evaluation. These findings indicate that familiar promotional symbols can shape citizens’ attitudes, and compensate for the effect of poor performance, with regard to sufficiently ambiguous organizational aspects. We discuss the implications of these findings for current research on the effectiveness of transparency and performance information.

Enhancing Public Innovation by Transforming Public Governance, or vice versa?


TorfingJacob and TriantafillouPeter. 2016. Enhancing Public Innovation by Transforming Public Governance.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.352 pp. $88.

Dual Dynamics: A New Theory of the Relationship Between Congress and the Bureaucracy


WorkmanSamuel. 2015. The Dynamics of Bureaucracy in the U.S. Government: How Congress and Federal Agencies Process Information and Solve Problems. New York: Cambridge University Press. 208 pp. $86 (hardback).

Winners and Losers in the Ecology of Games: Network Position, Connectivity, and the Benefits of Collaborative Governance Regimes


Collaborative governance regimes (CGRs) are often viewed as a means to be more inclusive of diverse actors than other forms of governance. However, collaboration can also reinforce pre-existing power and resource dynamics instead of distributing resources and facilitating joint action. This article tests seven hypotheses concerning how the structural position of an actor within a policy network influences said actor’s ability to access resources through participation in CGRs. We then test these hypotheses using data generated by a survey of 400 actors within a regional environmental governance network that contains 57 CGRs. Using exponential random graph models (ERGMs) designed to account for network dependencies, we test how various attributes of network structure—in terms of an actor’s connections to other actors and to CGRs—influence that actor’s ability to access resources through CGR participation. We find that actors who benefit from participation in one CGR are more likely to benefit from participation in other CGRs as well, speaking to the potential for CGRs to further existing imbalances rather than distribute benefits more equitably. Further, CGRs that foster principled engagement (increased face-to-face communication, development of common problem understanding, and awareness of other network actors) are strongly associated with actors’ ability to access financial, human, and technical resources through participation. Although the CGRs we study do improve actors’ access to network resources, this can occur in ways that further existing inequities in resource access.

Review of Transparency and the Open Society: Practical Lessons for Effective Policy


TaylorRoger and KelseyTim. 2016. Review of Transparency and the Open Society: Practical Lessons for Effective Policy. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, University of Bristol. 376 pp. $39.95.

The Pathways That Make New Public Employees Committed: A Dual-Process Model Triggered by Newcomer Learning


The current article proposes a dual-process model to explain how newcomer learning, an outcome of the early socialization experiences of new public employees, leads to organizational commitment in public organizations. Specifically, we argue that newcomer learning triggers two distinct psychological mechanisms: an affective pathway, leading to job satisfaction and ultimately to affective commitment, and a cognitive pathway, leading to psychological contract fulfillment and normative commitment. We conducted a two-wave survey with 728 newcomers in the Brazilian Internal Revenue Service to test this dual-pathway model. Our findings support the hypothesis that these affective and cognitive pathways constitute independent channels in mediating the impact of newcomer learning on public servants’ organizational commitment. Moreover, we observe that the affective component of commitment is triggered by job satisfaction, whereas the normative component is more closely linked with psychological contract fulfillment. Our findings highlight the importance of providing newcomers with the knowledge about organizational values, formal procedures and informal norms and skills to perform their roles during the early socialization period to strengthen their commitment to public organizations and ultimately to the public interest.