Explaining government bureaucrats’ behaviour: On the relative importance of organizational position, demographic background, and political attitudes
Journal article, Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEgeberg M, Stigen IM. Explaining government bureaucrats’ behaviour: On the relative importance of organizational position, demographic background, and political attitudes. Public Policy and Administration. 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0952076718814901
A basic insight in public governance and administration research is that career officials tend to play an important role in public policy development as well as in its implementation. Surprisingly, however, despite of being an enduring theme on the research agenda, the jury still seems to be largely out as regards how to account for bureaucrats’ actual decision behaviour, a fact reflected in the numerous competing theories and perspectives available. By applying a novel large-N questionnaire survey as well as an alternative method, this paper sheds new light on this highly contested area of research. We find that government bureaucrats’ (formal) organizational position is by far the most important explanatory factor, while classical demographic factors like geographical background, gender and age play a rather minor role. Among officials’ many early experiences, only their educational background and former job experience really count. Nor the political attitudes of officials seem to matter. The crucial role of bureaucrats’ organizational position for understanding their behaviour does not seem to depend on intra-organizational socialization. Importantly, the key role of factors that may be relatively subject to deliberate change, such as organization structure and the former job experience and educational background of those recruited, entails a considerable potential for organizational design.