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The limits of meritocracy: Screening bureaucrats under imperfect verifiability

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  • Suárez Serrato, Juan Carlos
  • Wang, Xiao Yu
  • Zhang, Shuang

Abstract

Does bureaucratic ability predict promotion in governments? We show that self-reported performance in enforcing the One Child Policy predicts mayoral promotion in China. However, misreporting handicaps screening—a non-manipulated performance measure does not predict promotion. We show that this is consistent with a model where a government has a meritocratic objective but underestimates the imperfect verifiability of performance, rather than a model where a government is only interested in the illusion of meritocracy. Thus, despite meritocratic intentions, we challenge the notion that a successful promotion system effectively substituted for democratic institutions in explaining Chinese growth.

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  • Suárez Serrato, Juan Carlos & Wang, Xiao Yu & Zhang, Shuang, 2019. "The limits of meritocracy: Screening bureaucrats under imperfect verifiability," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 223-241.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:140:y:2019:i:c:p:223-241
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2019.06.003
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    2. Yi Chen & Yingfei Huang, 2020. "The power of the government: China's Family Planning Leading Group and the fertility decline of the 1970s," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 42(35), pages 985-1038.
    3. Liu Qiang & Fernando Rios-Avila & Han Jiqin, 2020. "Is China's Low Fertility Rate Caused by the Population Control Policy?," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_943, Levy Economics Institute.
    4. de Janvry, Alain & He, Guojun & Sadoulet, Elisabeth & Wang, Shaoda & Zhang, Qiong, 2020. "Performance Evaluation, Influence Activities, and Bureaucratic Work Behavior: Evidence from China," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt30z1q8nw, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
    5. Yang, Jinyang & Bazan Ruiz, Muchin I.A, 2021. "Are pilot experiments random? Social connections and policy expansion in China," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 18(C).
    6. Martinez-Bravo, Monica & Padr� i Miquel, Gerard & Qian, Nancy & Yao, Yan, 2017. "The Rise and Fall of Local Elections in China: Theory and Empirical Evidence on the Autocrat's Trade-off," CEPR Discussion Papers 12439, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    D23; D73; D86; M12; M51; O12; O15; O53; P23; P26; P48;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • P23 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Factor and Product Markets; Industry Studies; Population
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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