Elections and Reform: The Adoption of Civil Service Systems in the U.S. States

Reprint No. 2013:32

Author(s): Michael M. Ting, James M. Snyder, Jr, Shigeo Hirano and Olle FolkeYear: 2013 Title: Journal of Theoretical Politics Volume (No.): 25 (3) Pages: 363–387
Online article (restrictions may apply)

Most government bureaucracies in developed countries use civil service systems. What accounts for their adoption? We develop and test a model of bureaucratic reforms under repeated partisan competition. In the model, two political parties composed of overlapping generations of candidates compete for office. Under a spoils system, an incumbent politician can either continue to “politicize” the bureaucracy, which allows her to direct benefits to voters in a way that will increase her electoral prospects, or she can “insulate” the bureaucracy, which prevents all future winners from using the bureaucracy for electoral advantage. Our main result is that politicization persists when incumbents expect to win, and insulation takes place when they expect to lose. We test this hypothesis using data from the adoption of civil service reforms across the U.S. states. The predictions of the model are consistent with the empirical patterns leading up to the implementation of the general civil service reforms. Using both state and city level data, we observe an increase in partisan competition prior to the reforms.

Ting, Michael M., James M. Snyder, Jr, Shigeo Hirano and Olle Folke (2013), "Elections and Reform: The Adoption of Civil Service Systems in the U.S. States". Journal of Theoretical Politics 25(3), 363–387.

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union and the Return of the Nation State


This book explores the complex and ever-changing relationship between the European Union and its member states. The recent surge in tension in this relationship has been prompted by the actions of some member state governments as they question fundamental EU values and principles and refuse to implement common decisions seemingly on the basis of narrowly defined national interests.

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