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Tenure and street-level bureaucrats: how assessment tools are used at the frontline of the public sector

Author

Listed:
  • Assadi, Anahita

    () (IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy)

  • Lundin, Martin

    () (IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy)

Abstract

The tension between governance and professional discretion is a question of constant interest in public administration research, and studies on street-level bureaucracy thus aim to understand the actions of frontline workers. Largely missing in this literature, however, is research on how tenure affects behavior. To fill in this gap, we analyze how caseworkers with varying degrees of tenure respond to steering signals. We study the nationwide introduction of an assessment support tool to be used to assess clients’ needs under the Swedish active labor market policy. We propose that accumulated experiences strengthen frontline workers’ confidence. In turn, this makes them less responsive to formal policy signals, such as the assessment tool. Qualitative and quantitative methods are both used in support of the current research. The analysis suggests that as tenure increases, street-level bureaucrats, especially male caseworkers, tend to use the assessment tool less carefully and act in accordance with policy signals to a lesser extent. The qualitative analysis indicates that this pattern can partly be explained by the fact that increasing experience with meeting clients face-to-face increases caseworkers’ perceived skills and confidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Assadi, Anahita & Lundin, Martin, 2015. "Tenure and street-level bureaucrats: how assessment tools are used at the frontline of the public sector," Working Paper Series 2015:19, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2015_019
    as

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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Stefanie Behncke & Markus Frölich & Michael Lechner, 2009. "Targeting Labour Market Programmes - Results from a Randomized Experiment," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 145(III), pages 221-268, September.
    2. Munasinghe, Lalith & Reif, Tania & Henriques, Alice, 2008. "Gender gap in wage returns to job tenure and experience," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 1296-1316, December.
    3. Philip J. O’Connell & Seamus Mcguinness & Elish Kelly, 2012. "The Transition from Short- to Long-Term Unemployment: A Statistical Profiling Model for Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 43(1), pages 135-164.
    4. Shaw, Kathryn & Lazear, Edward P., 2008. "Tenure and output," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 704-723, August.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:96:y:2002:i:03:p:553-564_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:85:y:1991:i:03:p:829-850_17 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Street-level bureaucracy; policy implementation; discretion; tenure; assessment support tool; profiling; active labor market policy;

    JEL classification:

    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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