Bureaucratic Professionalization is a Contagious Process Inside Government: Evidence from a Priming Experiment with 3,000 Chilean Civil Servants

Kim Sass Mikkelsen*, Christian Schuster, Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling, Magdalena Rojas Wettig

*Corresponding author

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Education is at the center of theories of how bureaucracies professionalize. Going back to Weber, the process toward a capable and professional bureaucracy has been viewed as driven by the entry of well-educated, professional recruits. We argue that this perspective misses important dynamics within professionalizing bureaucracies—in particular, how bureaucrats inside government react when bureaucracies professionalize. Building on this insight, we argue that incumbent bureaucrats face incentives to acquire greater expertise when educated entrants arrive, in order to remain competitive for organizational rewards (such as promotions) inside government and jobs outside government in case educated entrants “outcompete” them. We provide empirical support for these propositions with a priming experiment with 3,000 bureaucrats in Chile's central government. Bureaucrats primed about the professionalization of other bureaucrats put a greater premium on their own expertise acquisition. Our findings suggest that bureaucratic professionalization is a contagious—and thus self-reinforcing—process inside government.

TidsskriftPublic Administration Review
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)290-302
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 1 mar. 2022

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