Explaining government bureaucrats’ behaviour

Morten Egeberg and Inger Marie Stigen use organizational position, demographic background and political attitudes to explain government bureaucrats’ behaviour in the journal Public Policy and Administration.  


A basic insight in public administration research is that career officials play an important role in public policy development as well as in its implementation. Surprisingly, however, despite being an enduring theme on the research agenda, the jury still seems to be out regarding how to account for bureaucrats’ actual decision behaviour, a fact reflected in the numerous competing theories and perspectives available. By applying a novel large-N questionnaire survey as well as an alternative method, this article sheds new light on this highly contested area of research. We find that government bureaucrats’ (formal) organizational position is by far the most important explanatory factor, while classical demographic factors like geographical background, gender and age play a rather minor role. Among officials’ many early experiences, only their educational background and former job experience really count. The political attitudes of officials do not matter. The crucial role of bureaucrats’ organizational position for understanding their behaviour does not depend on intra-organizational socialization. Importantly, the key role of factors that may be relatively subject to deliberate change, such as organization structure and the former job experience and educational background of those recruited, entails a considerable potential for organizational design.

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Explaining government bureaucrats’ behaviour: On the relative importance of organizational position, demographic background, and political attitudes
Morten Egeberg and Inger Marie Stigen

Public Policy and Administration
DOI: 10.1177/0952076718814901


Open Access (link)

Tags: organization theory, bureacracy, Hierarchy, Demography, political attitudes
Published Dec. 19, 2018 12:30 PM - Last modified Dec. 19, 2018 12:30 PM