Ideology and Performance in Public Organizations

Jörg L. Spenkuch, Edoardo Teso*, Guo Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

We combine personnel records of the United States federal bureaucracy from 1997 to 2019 with administrative voter registration data to study how ideological alignment between politicians and bureaucrats affects turnover and performance. We document significant partisan cycles and turnover among political appointees. By contrast, we find no political cycles in the civil service. At any point in time, a sizable share of bureaucrats is ideologically misaligned with their political leaders. We study the performance implications of this misalignment for the case of procurement officers. Exploiting presidential transitions as a source of “within-bureaucrat” variation in political alignment, we find that procurement contracts overseen by misaligned officers exhibit greater cost overruns and delays. We provide evidence consistent with a general “morale effect,” whereby misaligned bureaucrats are less motivated to pursue the organizational mission. Our results thus help to shed some of the first light on the costs of ideological misalignment within public organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1171-1203
Number of pages33
JournalEconometrica
Volume91
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Bureaucracies
  • mission alignment
  • public procurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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