Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

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June 26-27, ESADE Business School, Barcelona, Spain

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Administrative Discretion and Regulatory Capitalism - Colin Scott, University College Dublin

This paper evaluates the challenges and responses attaching to the exercise of administrative discretion associated with contemporary forms of ‘regulatory capitalism’ (which sees pervasive regulation, going beyond agencies and rules, as embracing a wider range of regulatory actors and new instruments). The expansion of state administrations in the twentieth century generated a degree of anxiety about the growth of administrative discretion. For Dicey, famously, administrative discretion was a threat to the rule of law in England. For K.C.Davis, writing in the post-War United States, administrative discretion was something to be structured through general standards. Since Dicey and Davis wrote, there has been a significant shift in European countries from governance through modes identified with the welfare state (which frequently implied substantial administrative discretion in such areas as welfare provision, health, education and provision of public utilities) towards more regulatory modes of governance (sometimes characterised as ‘the rise of the regulatory state’), and with the effect of displacing some forms of discretion with rules and processes for monitoring and enforcing their compliance. The growth of such classic regulatory modes of governing may be thought to reduce or eliminate challenges of administrative discretion. However, even with such classic regulatory modes, it is clear that agencies have substantial discretion, for example over when and how to enforce. The dominant theory of responsive regulation supplies a guide on how to exercise such enforcement discretion. Furthermore, a certain disenchantment with command and control regulation as a mechanism for effectively changing behaviours has led to the search for new instruments which may be more effective but may also involve more extensive discretion. One set of newer instruments, informed by the behavioural sciences, and now mandated by a US Executive Order (but not yet in the new EU better regulation package of 2015), may create a new challenge of applying discretion to determine when to shape ‘choice architectures’ to promote better behaviours by citizens and others. Regulators have been alive to the challenge of legitimately exercising discretion and, in some jurisdictions there has been a trend towards regulatory agencies setting down strategies and annual plans, consulting on them, and then publishing strategies in respect of such matters as enforcement. These practices, which constitute an internal mechanism of structuring discretion (somewhat distinct from approaches suggested by the Global Administrative Law (GAL)) movement have been encouraged by the OECD. In this paper we evaluate the application of these agency practices in the UK and in Germany. We ask to what such practices have been developed to the arguably more challenging discretionary practices of supranational and private regulators, who are further removed from elected government. Key examples of such regulators include the financial bodies established in the EU following the global financial crisis (such as the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Securities and Markets Authority(ESMA)) and, amongst the private regulators, the ISEAL alliance, which sets norms for decision making and evaluation for a wide variety of private labelling organisations.

Between eligibility and access: the mechanisms of administrative exclusion in Mexican student grants - Dr. Rik Peeters, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas


The study of bureaucratic dysfunction has long focused on how red tape affects internal organisational performance. More recently, however, scholars have developed a fuller understanding of the impact administrative burdens have on citizens and, more specifically, on their ability to access the rights and services they are legally entitled to. Two important contributions to this field of research are the notion of administrative exclusion – referring to the gap between formal-legal eligibility and practical access through bureaucratic procedures – and the disproportionate effect of administrative burdens on disadvantaged groups.
We use these two insights to study the Mexican government´s programme to provide students from lower-income families with university grants. Quantitative data on grant applications, grant approvals, and student dropout levels is analysed and broken down for several population groups to trace the disproportionate effect of administrative burdens for the more disadvantaged groups (e.g. students from lower income families, rural areas, or indigenous communities). Interviews with students and selection committees provide additional insight in the mechanisms of exclusion.
We expect to find mechanisms of administrative exclusion at four levels:
1. Red tape: compliance criteria and application for prolonged support
2. Bureaucratic behaviour: selection of students to ration services; institutional support for students at universities
3. Rules: eligibility criteria excluding informal economic sector
4. Policy design: failure to reach certain target groups

On the frontlines of college access: Navigating the administrative burden of applying to public universities - Grant Blume, University of Washington


This study contributes to the development of administrative burden’s theoretical framework by applying the framework to the take-up of public postsecondary education. Leveraging extensive administrative data from Washington State within a series of multilevel models, the study finds that a higher level of public high school counselors 1) increases the odds of postsecondary application submission for applications that are disproportionately burdensome and 2) increases the odds of application submission for low-income and underrepresented minority students. With these findings, this study extends administrative burden into new theoretical terrain on two fronts. First, analyzing the effect of high school counselors on the odds of submitting postsecondary applications conceptualizes frontline workers as a potential moderator of administrative burden. Second, with the empirical extension of administrative burden into a new public realm, education, this study demonstrates the utility of administrative burden’s theoretical framework across an increasingly diverse set of public domains.

A Thousand Petty Fortresses: Administrative Burden in U.S. Immigration Policies and its Consequences - Carolyn Heinrich, Vanderbilt University


Contradictory elements in U.S. immigration policy—reflecting a long-time struggle between inclusionary and exclusionary views—have resulted in federal legislation filled with compromises and tradeoffs that, at state and sub-state levels, play out in unclear interpretations and uneven, highly discretionary administration and enforcement of immigration law and policy. This research aims to document some of the primary sources of discretionary administration and enforcement of immigration law and policies, particularly as they play out at state and sub-state levels, while presenting a theoretical frame for more fully investigating and addressing their incidence and consequences. A mixed methods research approach is employed to explore these issues empirically and qualitatively, including a case study analysis of a policy change in Texas that draws on data collected from state documents and interviews with immigrants affected by the policy. To better understand the potential longer-term consequences of these policies, longitudinal data from a survey of children of immigrants are analyzed to assess later outcomes of children who are denied economic assistance and other benefits under policies that impose barriers to their integration into society. The study findings point to serious, adverse consequences of state and sub-state immigration policies that create administrative burden for families and reduce the well-being of children of immigrants, while also diminishing the transparency, fairness and effectiveness of public administration.

Non-take-up of social support in times of welfare state reform: exploring the impact of bureaucratic obstacles on help-seeking behavior - Mark Reijnders, Leiden University


The aim of this study is to understand the influence of bureaucratic factors on help-seeking behavior of clients who are eligible for social support, but do not (yet) receive it. In many welfare states, public authorities increasingly appeal to and rely on citizens’ responsibility to organize their own social support as a complement to – or sometimes as a substitute for – publicly funded social welfare services. This relative shift from professional service delivery to support from other sources can reduce welfare costs, according to policymakers. However, recent research points to suboptimalities when it comes to clients asking for and receiving the support that they need and that policymakers are counting on that they are receiving (Reijnders, Schalk & Steen, 2016). For a variety of reasons people may avoid or feel reluctant to ask for (more) help, even though they can acquire them at no financial costs and supply is sufficient. Up until now, academics as well as practitioners have paid only scant attention to the problems and barriers impeding the optimal utilization of social support.
This lack of attention is problematic, as it poses a real threat to the effectiveness and legitimacy of social welfare policies. In addition, barriers to service utilization can serve as more or less deliberate instruments at the hands of politicians to limit public expenditure (cf. Heinrich, 2015; Moynihan, Herd & Harvey, 2014; Moynihan, Herd & Rigby, 2013).

This paper focuses specifically on the role and impact of bureaucratic factors on the (non)utilization of social services. From an extensive literature review across different disciplines – including psychology, sociology and public administration – the main bureaucratic factors are distilled that can be related to (non-)take-up of social support; such as administrative burden, the level of bureaucratic competence of individuals, and creaming behavior by employees of social service organizations. This study is especially sensitive to the fact that these problems and barriers can occur in situations of policy stability, but are expected to present themselves to an even higher extent under circumstances of policy transition. There is a real risk of exacerbating non-take-up of social support when people lose existing help due to budget cuts or other types of reforms and feel ‘forced’ to find substitute help. Some, yet scarce, research indicates that disruptions in existing structures of social support, as a result from budget cuts and reforms, can further negatively affect the willingness of potential clients to take-up help (Grootegoed, 2013; Grootegoed & Van Dijk, 2012).

Based on narratives (semi-structured interviews) of clients and professional service providers in the Dutch municipality of The Hague (500.000+ inhabitants), we examine how and to what extent these bureaucratic factors influence help-seeking behavior. This study contributes to current understanding in two ways: it further refines our theoretical and empirical knowledge on the role of bureaucratic factors in the (non)utilization of social services in a European (i.e. Dutch) context. And secondly, it provides practical advice on how public authorities could reduce burdens.

Unanswered Questions: Why Citizens Are Frustrated with Local Government and What Public Managers Can Do About It - Jennifer M. Connolly, University of Miami


In a recent survey of U.S. adults, only 36.5% of those who report having directly contacted their local government at least once in the last year rated their local government’s response time to the request or inquiry as either somewhat fast or very fast. Approximately 58% report that their local government was either somewhat helpful or very helpful. This book project examines two key questions: (1) Why are some local governments better able to reduce the administrative burdens their residents face when requesting information or services? And (2) What can local public managers can do to improve their responsiveness to citizen requests for services and overall citizen satisfaction with local government? Using novel data on Florida municipalities, I construct measures of local government responsiveness and examine the factors that contribute to local administrative burdens. Finally, I offer substantive suggestions as to what public managers can do to reduce administrative burdens at the local level and improve their responsiveness to local residents.

Mechanisms of Institutional Discrimination: A Case Study of the Belgian Police - Babette Gommers & Wouter Van Dooren, University of Antwerp


Diversity in the Belgian police force is limited. In addition, complaints about discriminatory behavior repeatedly emerge. In response, police forces take initiatives to match the composition of their forces with that of the society. However, the results of these diversity policies are modest. This research therefore asks how the lack of diversity and the prevalence of discriminatory behavior can be explained. Following Reskin (2003), we contend that institutional mechanisms moderate - reinforce or mitigate - the relation between our psychological biases and the actual behavior. Our study will focus on three mechanisms of institutional discrimination; administrative barriers, formalization and accountability, and job socialization. We will present our research design involving a cohort study of recruits of the police force. Using a qualitative mixed methods design, we will follow these recruits during their selection, training and first year on the job.

Balancing Barriers to Entry and Administrative Burden in Voluntary Regulation: An Example from the National Organic Program - David Carter, University of Utah


Voluntary programs have become a recognized instrument for achieving public and private governance goals. As a governance instrument, these programs face a particular design challenge: to generate societal benefits, a voluntary program must balance stringent standards that support the program’s environmental or social goals, on one hand, with program participation costs that may deter program participation, on the other. This paper argues that the theoretical framework of administrative burden provides a means to consider how certification programs set and adjust entry barriers to motivate participation while maintaining credibility. The framework’s applicability is illustrated through an examination of National Organic Program initiatives to reduce the administrative burden faced by agricultural producers seeking organic certification. Through a discussion drawing on the case, we identify three questions and a number of theoretical expectations for research contributing to a better understanding of the causes and consequences of voluntary program administrative burden.

I am excited about the prospect of discussing the ideas that we developed in the course of this paper, and the associated research agenda that includes topics such as: modeling how administrative burden changes affect voluntary program uptake and participation; how third-party administrators shape voluntary program administrative burden, and; how competition may incentivize administrators to alleviate voluntary program administrative burden. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions regarding this letter, or the project. Thank you for the consideration.

Bureaucratic work, mediation and individual experiences of administrative burden: preliminary results on the implementation of the common agricultural policy in France and Spain - Blandine Mesnel, Ph.D. candidate in political science, Centre d’études européennes, Sciences Po, Paris, Agence de l’environnement et de la maîtrise de l’énergie (ADEME)


The common agricultural policy (CAP) provides critical direct subsidies to European farmers. Two criteria have recently been added to those allocations in order to foster biodiversity: “conditionality” (2003) and “green direct payments” (2015). Those criteria are significantly demanding for farmers in terms of bureaucratic work, calling for new monitoring measures of their farming practices as well as digital declarations on their natural landscape. Each country is developing its own implementation mode for those norms. This has an impact on the distribution of compulsory bureaucratic work between farmers and other CAP actors, notably agricultural civil servants or professional agricultural organizations. A comparison of France and Spain enables us to measure the effects of the existence of this bureaucratic work (most-similar case) and of its monitoring (most-different case) on the farmers’ individual experiences and representations of administrative burden. This research is based on multiple interviews with CAP beneficiaries and State or non-State actors involved in the CAP implementation (N = 76) in both countries. Direct observations of farmers / mediators interactions complement this fieldwork.

Influence of Red Tape on Bureaucratic Decision: Replication and Extension of Scott and Pandey - Richard Walker, City University of Hong Kong


Bureaucratic decisions are made under a “rule structure”. The rule structure controls the boundary of decisions, numbers of decisions, and timing of decisions. The organizational level of red tape describes a problematic rule structure, and is commonly defined as unnecessary and wasteful rules), and burdensome rules, regulations and procedures. If an organization has red tape, then the decisions in that organization will be negatively affected.

This study replicates the simulation experiment of Scott & Pandey (2000) that examined decision propensity under different levels of red tape and different levels of compassion. An empirical generalization is conducted, extending the population to Hong Kong. Following the original study the subject pool are master students of public administration and social welfare. Materials are localized to the Hong Kong context.

The experiment is a training module for new social workers. The training module introduces information about a NGO (the service provider), and asks participants to make decisions for social welfare to four clients in a two-by-two factorial design (high/low red tape and high/low compassion). In the high red tape condition, organizational information includes more micro management examples, and complex forms for decision-making. In the low red tape condition, organization information is lighter, and decision-making is simple. High and low compassion are singled by client’s circumstances. We will compare the amounts of benefits and types of benefits that participants decide to offer the clients between two conditions to ascertain the impact of administrative burdens on decision-making.

The original findings showed that the high level of red tape produce a reduction in benefits offered, and the reduced level is related to how much compassion participants showed towards the clients. By conducting the replication in Hong Kong, we will test boundary-conditions. It is anticipated that the findings will vary from the original study because of a likely greater tolerance for overbearing rules and a willingness to accept authority and decisions made by organizational leaders. Findings from this study, when compared to the original, will shed light on the theory and practice of administrative burdens in different contexts.

The Psychology of Administrative Burdens - Martin Baekgaard, Aarhus University


Research on administrative burden distinguishes between three types of burdens -- learning, psychological, and compliance burdens -- that citizens may be imposed in interactions with the public administration. While knowledge about learning and compliance burdens has increased in recent years, less is known about psychological burdens. In this paper I will present a research proposal about how to study psychological burdens using both experimental and observational designs. The project takes its theoretical starting point in research on how resource scarcity affect cognitive abilities. Drawing on the cognitive literature on the effects of resource scarcity (e.g. Mullainathan and Shafir 2013), the project suggests that individuals who are constrained by scarce resources will have to devote cognitive capacity to deal with their situation. This in turn is expected to reduce their ability to cope with administrative rules because of the reduction in cognitive capacity and hence to create stronger psychological burdens.

Reducing Burdens by Design: The Example of Social Security - Pamela Herd and Donald Moynihan, University of Wisconsin-Madison


It is hard to point to a more successful social welfare policy in the United States than Social Security. It has dramatically improved income security among older adults, as well as providing life insurance for the surviving families of those eligible for the program based on their employment histories. A key to the policy and political success of Social almost all of those eligible – that is to say, almost all Americans – receive benefits. A key reason for near-universal take-up is its very low administrative burdens. It is tempting to ascribe the success of Social Security to its simple task. In his typology of bureaucracies, James Q. Wilson characterized the SSA as a “production” agency – that is, an organization that is easy to manage because its processes are easy to observe and its outputs measurable: “SSA was given a relatively simple task that was carefully defined by law.”

We argue, however, that the assumption that task simplicity explains Social Security’s success is ultimately misleading, reflecting just how much we have come to assume that the low administrative burdens of the program are the natural order of things. The success of Social Security is a triumph of administrative design over a set of daunting challenges. A government that had never implemented a comparable social program had to develop a large, reliable and efficient administrative structure to serve 26 million Americans in its first few years, and ensure that it was free of the corruption that plagued the civil war pensions system. Early administrators did so through a series of deliberate design choices that reflected a belief that administrative simplicity was central to the program’s long-term sustainability. Retracing the origins of Social Security shows how fundamental administrative design choices are not just to reducing burdens, but also to building durable and popular public programs.

Targeting cooking Gas Benefits in India: Investigating Administrative Burden and Policy Feedbacks - Srinivas Yerramsetti, Rutgers University


Research into how compliance regimes shape citizenship continues to lag the pace with which technocratic principles are embedded within the practices of the delegated welfare state. Consequently, our understanding of how technocratic welfare policy design weighs upon the citizens’ ability to comply with programs and affects behavioral change remains inadequate. This research assesses the role of administrative burden in citizen–state interactions in mediating mass public behaviors within the specific empirical setting of welfare targeting, where biometric data is used to verify eligibility, of cooking gas benefits in India. Based on mixed methods research, the research seeks to show how burdens influence various forms of citizen participation, and their beliefs about procedural justice and policy legitimacy. Thus, the research findings seek to contribute to a growing body of knowledge about how citizen-state interactions shape democratic citizenship.