Note: These are my substantive research publications. For policy publications, see here. For methodological publications see here

The Causal Effect of Public Service Motivation on Ethical Behavior in the Public Sector: Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey Experiment

with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Chrstian Schuster

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 29(3):

445–459. 2018.

Abstract: Public service motivation (PSM) and ethical behavior are central concerns in public administration. Yet, experimental evidence on the causes of ethical behavior and the causal effects of PSM remains scarce, curtailing our understanding of both. This article draws on a novel survey experimental design to improve this understanding. The design is based on a simple insight: asking about PSM can render salient PSM-oriented identities of respondents. By randomizing the order of PSM and outcome questions, PSM may be exogenously activated among survey respondents, and the causal effects of this activation assessed. Drawing on this design and a sample of over 5,000 Chilean central government employees—the largest experimental PSM survey sample to date—we find that PSM activation enhances willingness to report ethical problems to management. This provides the first experimental evidence that PSM may promote ethical behavioral intent, and suggests that activating public employees’ PSM can benefit public sector ethics.

(Un)Principled Principals, (Un)Principled Agents: The Differential Effects of Managerial Civil Service Reforms on Corruption in Developing and OECD Countries

with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Christian Schuster

forthcoming in Governance

Abstract: Do management practices have similar anti-corruption effects in OECD and developing countries? Despite prominent cautions against 'New Zealand' reforms which enhance managerial discretion in developing countries, scholars have not assessed this question statistically. Our paper addresses this gap through a conjoint experiment with 6,500 public servants in three developing and one OECD country. Our experiment assesses Weberian relative to managerial approaches to recruitment, job stability and pay. We argue that in developing countries with institutionalized corruption and weak rule-of-law – yet not OECD countries without such features – 'unprincipled' principals use managerial discretion over hiring, firing and pay to favor 'unprincipled' bureaucratic agents who engage in corruption. Our results support this argument: managerial practices are associated with greater bureaucratic corruption in our surveyed developing countries, yet have little effect in our OECD country. Alleged ‘best practices’ in public management in OECD countries may thus be ‘worst practices’ in developing countries.

Civil service management and corruption: What we know and what we don't

with Jan Meyer-Sahling and Christian Schuster

Public Administration, 96(2): 276-285. 2018.

Abstract: Numerous studies have linked a range of economic, social, and institutional variables with corruption in government. Yet, most of this literature overlooks the management of public officials themselves. This is a relevant omission: almost all corrupt exchanges involve public officials. This article reviews studies—36 in total—that do address civil service management and anti‐corruption. It finds that prior works assess a narrow set of civil service management structures. Meritocratic recruitment and, less robustly, pay levels have been associated with lower corruption. By contrast, robust evidence on how corruption relates to other established public personnel management areas—such as distinct pay structures (rather than levels), promotion, transfer, and job stability practices—is largely unavailable. The article thus calls for research assessing the effects of a broader set of civil service management practices to gain a deeper understanding of corruption, and how to curb it.

Other Publications

Oiling the bureaucracy? political spending, bureaucrats and the resource curse

(with Adam S Harris, Rachel Sigman, Jan Meyer-Sahling, and Christian Schuster)

World Development 127. 2020.

Old habits die hard, sometimes: History and civil service politicization in Europe.

International Review of Administrative Sciences 84(4): 803-819. 2018.

Civil service laws, merit, politicization, and corruption: The perspective of public officials from five East European countries.

(with Jan Meyer-Sahling)

Public Administration 94(4): 1105-1123. 2016.

Getting to Denmark, More or Less: Politics, Bureaucracy, and Corruption Success Stories in East Central Europe. Aarhus: Politica. 2015. PhD dissertation. ISBN: 9788773351918.

In murky waters: a disentangling of corruption and related concepts.

Crime, Law, and Social Change 60(4): 357-374. 2013.