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The influence of individual characteristics and institutional norms on bureaucrats’ use of CBA in environmental policy: a model and a choice experiment




Social scientists regularly criticize the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA), which has led to much focus being placed on investigating the possible biases related to its results. Recent research shows that CBA is not routinely done prior to environmental, energy, and climate policymaking in Sweden, and in countries where a CBA is made, the results have little influence on political decisions. This paper investigates obstacles to using CBA information with a focus on bureaucrats. We use empirical data from Sweden, where the ministries are small by international standards and hence government agencies have a sizeable influence on policymaking. We construct a theoretical model and then test the theoretical predictions with empirical data collected from five Swedish government agencies. The empirical results lend support both for the assertion that risk aversion concerning the environmental outcome, the bureaucrats’ environmental attitudes, and the cost of taking CBA information into account have a considerable impact on the probability of using information from a CBA. Hence risk averse and bureaucrats with strong environmental preferences are less likely and bureaucrats with low cost of doing a CBA more likely than other bureaucrats to use CBA information. Finally, a binding governmental budget constraint may positively influence a bureaucrat’s choice of undertaking a CBA. A tentative conclusion is therefore that it may be possible to increase the use of CBA by making the budgetary consequences of policies much clearer and demanding due consideration of costs.

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  • Jussila Hammes, Johanna & Nerhagen, Lena & Congdon Fors, Heather, 2019. "The influence of individual characteristics and institutional norms on bureaucrats’ use of CBA in environmental policy: a model and a choice experiment," Working Papers 2019:6, Swedish National Road & Transport Research Institute (VTI).
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:vtiwps:2019_006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jussila Hammes, Johanna & Pyddoke, Roger & Nerhagen, Lena, 2013. "The impact of education on environmental policy decision-making," Working papers in Transport Economics 2013:9, CTS - Centre for Transport Studies Stockholm (KTH and VTI).
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    5. Alesina, Alberto & Tabellini, Guido, 2008. "Bureaucrats or politicians? Part II: Multiple policy tasks," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 426-447, April.
    6. Eggert, Håkan & Kataria, Mitesh & Lampi, Elina, 2016. "Difference in Preferences or in Preference Orderings? Comparing Choices of Environmental Bureaucrats, Recreational Anglers, and the Public," Working Papers in Economics 669, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    7. Iaryczower, Matias & Lewis, Garrett & Shum, Matthew, 2013. "To elect or to appoint? Bias, information, and responsiveness of bureaucrats and politicians," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 230-244.
    8. Jussila Hammes , Johanna, 2017. "The impact of career concerns and cognitive dissonance on bureaucrats’ use of cost-benefit analysis," Working papers in Transport Economics 2017:5, CTS - Centre for Transport Studies Stockholm (KTH and VTI).
    9. Mouter, Niek & Annema, Jan Anne & Wee, Bert van, 2013. "Attitudes towards the role of Cost–Benefit Analysis in the decision-making process for spatial-infrastructure projects: A Dutch case study," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 1-14.
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    11. Nerhagen, Lena & Pyddoke , Roger & Jussila Hammes, Johanna, 2014. "Response to a social dilemma : an analysis of the choice between an economic and an environmental optimum in a policy making context," Working papers in Transport Economics 2014:8, CTS - Centre for Transport Studies Stockholm (KTH and VTI).
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    More about this item


    Bureaucrats; Cost-Benefit Analysis; Delegation; Environmental Policy; Environmental Preferences; Risk Aversion/Neutral/Loving;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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