NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

David E. Lewis

Vanderbilt University
333 Commons Center
Nashville, TN 37203-5721

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

December 2016Public Sector Personnel Economics: Wages, Promotions, and the Competence-Control Trade-off
with Charles M. Cameron, John M. de Figueiredo: w22966
We model personnel policies in public agencies, examining how wages and promotion standards can partially offset a fundamental contracting problem: the inability of public sector workers to contract on performance, and the inability of political masters to contract on forbearance from meddling. Despite the dual contracting problem, properly constructed personnel policies can encourage intrinsically motivated public sector employees to invest in expertise, seek promotion, remain in the public sector, and develop policy projects. However, doing so requires internal personnel policies that sort "slackers" from "zealots." Personnel policies that accomplish this task are quite different in agencies where acquired expertise has little value in the private sector, and agencies where acquired expe...
Elections, Ideology, and Turnover in the U.S. Federal Government
with Alexander Bolton, John M. de Figueiredo: w22932
A defining feature of public sector employment is the regular change in elected leadership. Yet, we know little about how elections influence public sector careers. We describe how elections alter policy outputs and disrupt the influence of civil servants over agency decisions. These changes shape the career choices of employees motivated by policy, influence, and wages. Using new Office of Personnel Management data on the careers of millions of federal employees between 1988 and 2011, we evaluate how elections influence employee turnover decisions. We find that presidential elections increase departure rates of career senior employees, particularly in agencies with divergent views relative to the new president and at the start of presidential terms. We also find suggestive evidence that v...
 
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