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The Motivation and Bias of Bureaucrats

Author

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  • Canice Prendergast

Abstract

Many individuals are motivated to exert effort because they care about their jobs, rather than because there are monetary consequences to their actions. The intrinsic motivation of bureaucrats is the focus of this paper, and three primary results are shown. First, bureaucrats should be biased. Second, sometimes this bias takes the form of advocating for their clients more than would their principal, while in other cases, they are more hostile to their interests. For a range of bureaucracies, those who are biased against clients lead to more efficient outcomes. Third, self-selection need not produce the desired bias. Instead, selection to bureaucracies is likely to be bifurcated, in the sense that it becomes composed of those who are most preferred by the principal, and those who are least preferred. (JEL D64, D73, D82)

Suggested Citation

  • Canice Prendergast, 2007. "The Motivation and Bias of Bureaucrats," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 180-196, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:1:p:180-196
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.1.180
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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