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The Effectiveness of Promotion Incentives for Public Employees: Evidence from Italian Academia



This paper investigates how promotion incentives affect the productivity of high-skilled public employees. In a fuzzy regression discontinuity design, we exploit the three bibliometric thresholds of the 2012 National Scientific Qualification (NSQ), the centralized evaluation procedure awarding the eligibility for career advancements in Italian universities. Specifically, we compare the 2013-2016 research productivity of assistant professors who barely achieve the qualification for associate professor with the productivity of candidates who barely miss it. The former have the incentive to enrich their publication records in order to meet the higher requirements for the full professor qualification by the following round of the NSQ. Conversely, the latter first need to re-apply for the associate professor qualification, thus facing lower promotion thresholds. We find that barely qualified scholars publish significantly more papers – and in journals of comparable quality – than their unsuccessful colleagues. The relationship between the increase in publications and the distance from the expected thresholds for the full professor qualification is inverted-U shaped: promotion incentives are mostly effective when the promotion threshold is neither too difficult nor too easy to meet. Our results emphasize the importance of promotion incentives as an effective tool for public management to enhance the productivity of state personnel. They also provide novel evidence on the responsiveness of scholars to publication-based hiring and promotion schemes.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco G. Nieddu & Lorenzo Pandolfi, "undated". "The Effectiveness of Promotion Incentives for Public Employees: Evidence from Italian Academia," CSEF Working Papers 507, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:507

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    Cited by:

    1. Maria De Paola & Roberto Nisticò & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2021. "Academic Careers and Fertility Decisions," CSEF Working Papers 595, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    2. Erika Deserranno & Philipp Kastrau & Gianmarco León-Ciliotta, 2021. "Promotions and Productivity: The Role of Meritocracy and Pay Progression in the Public Sector," Working Papers 1239, Barcelona School of Economics.
    3. Filandri, Marianna & Pasqua, Silvia, 2019. "Gender discrimination in academic careers in Italy," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201921, University of Turin.

    More about this item


    promotion incentives; public sector; academia; Italy; scientific productivity.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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