Journal of Behavioral Public Administration 2020-08-20T07:10:15+00:00 Sebastian Jilke Open Journal Systems <p><em>Journal of Behavioral Public Administration (JBPA)</em> is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary open access journal that focuses on behavioral and experimental research in public administration, broadly defined.&nbsp; JBPA encourages submissions of both basic scholarly and applied work conducted by academics or practitioners.</p> Do political donors have greater access to government officials? Evidence from a FOIA field experiment with US municipalities 2020-07-13T16:33:13+00:00 Nicholas R. Jenkins Michelangelo Landgrave Gabriel E. Martinez <p>Whether political donors have greater access to government officials is a perennial question in politics. Using a freedom of information act (FOIA) compliance field experiment with US municipalities in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania, we fail to find evidence that political donors have greater access to government officials compared to engaged citizens. We contribute to the lobbying literature by testing for preferential treatment towards political donors in municipal government. Consistent with the extant FOIA literature, we do find that a formal FOIA request increases compliance rates and decreases wait time before an initial reply. This is an important contribution because, although many polities have FOIA laws, it cannot be taken for granted that FOIA laws will lead to transparency in practice. Testing the effectiveness of FOIA laws in the US is particularly important because state laws vary substantially.</p> 2020-07-12T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Does performance disclosure affect user satisfaction, voice, and exit? Experimental evidence from service users 2020-08-09T22:00:00+00:00 Peter Rasmussen Damgaard Poul A. Nielsen <p>An emerging literature in behavioral public administration shows that performance information affects the perceptions and choices of citizens vis-a-vis public services and programs. Methodologically, a significant share of these studies relies on hypothetical scenario experiments, or they focus on citizen assessments of broader government entities that citizens have little or no direct interaction with or personal information about. Yet, among actual service users, performance data is only one among many sources of information, potentially limiting its influence. Service users might also engage in motivated reasoning, for instance, by questioning the validity and relevance of inconvenient information about service providers they are otherwise happy with, or whom they are responsible for choosing. In this study, we conducted a survey experiment in the field, offering true performance data to service users, namely parents with children in public schools. We consistently find little or no evidence that performance information affects user satisfaction, intended voice and exit behaviors, incumbency voting, or goal prioritization. These findings question the feasibility of using performance information disclosure to affect the judgments and choices of service users, with potentially important downstream effects on the incentives facing public service providers.</p> 2020-11-08T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Testing behavioral interventions designed to improve on-time SNAP recertification 2020-08-12T16:18:22+00:00 Leonard M. Lopoo Colleen Heflin Joseph Boskovski <p>We report results from a series of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) run between January 2019 and February 2020 testing behavioral interventions designed to increase the likelihood that SNAP recipients recertify on-time in Hennepin County, the most populous county in Minnesota. Given the different levels of governance and the abundance of qualifying rules and processes that low-income households must negotiate to obtain and retain SNAP food assistance benefits, many households may fail to recertify for SNAP. Administrative burden includes the difficulties created by having to learn deadlines and which forms constitute the proper paperwork necessary to recertify. In our main intervention, we test a three-armed study (n=23,756), comparing the efficacy of the Hennepin County SNAP recertification auto-dialer communication, a behaviorally-informed text message, and a third arm with both the Hennepin county autodialer and our text message, against a control group that did not receive any reminder at the beginning of the recertification month but did receive other standard written communications. Results from this trial show that the autodialer is not an effective reminder. However, the interventions with text messages are effective in improving recertification rates around five percent (p&lt;0.01) over no additional message and around two percentage points (p&lt;0.05) over the Hennepin County autodialer message currently being used. Text messaging appears to be particularly effective for SNAP recipients under the age of 60 with low to moderate levels of education.</p> 2020-09-23T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Emotional labor assessments and episodic recall bias in public engagement 2020-06-09T15:57:43+00:00 William G. Resh Cynthia Wilkes Carmen Mooradian <p>In a survey of local officials in Los Angeles County we test individual-level job-related assessments as a function of a public employee’s induced recall of discrete citizen engagement and one’s intrinsic prosocial motivation through a randomized survey experiment. We explore whether tangible retentions of public service influence the relationship between self-concepts—such as reported prosociality—and job-related assessments. We find that the relationship between self-reports of prosociality and pay satisfaction are contingent upon those concepts being decontextualized, whereas discrete recall bias appears not to affect emotional burnout. In other words, subjects seem to accept the emotional labor of engagement as part of their jobs. However, contextualizing engagement may make them more cognizant of its unremunerated dimensions; and, positive reinforcement of engagement provides encouragement to further engagement. Our findings make the case that emotional labor involves a skill set that employees implicitly recognize merits remuneration and that reinforcing positive engagement outcomes inspires employee motivation.</p> 2020-06-09T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Effectiveness of nudges on small business tax compliance behavior 2020-07-13T16:33:07+00:00 Laura Leets Amber Sprenger Robert Hartman Nicholas Kohn Juli Simon Thomas Chrissy Vu Sandi Aguirre Sanith Wijesinghe <p>There has been a surge of basic and applied interest in exploring how small changes in decision contexts might be used to improve heuristic decision-making, “nudging” decision-makers toward choices that increase individual and social utility. The present study tested the impact of three types of nudges on tax compliance among delinquent businesses (n=3,130) in the state of Pennsylvania: (1) sending reminder letters that almost identically matched original tax delinquency notices, (2) sending redesigned reminder letters that simplified text and layout, increased the salience of critical information, and included an “Act Now” urgency statement, and (3) sending redesigned reminder letters with handwritten notes on the envelope. Redesigned reminder letters significantly increased the number of business owners who responded and the amount of delinquency paid within 15 days of receiving the notices. The addition of a handwritten note on the outside of the envelope did not additionally increase response rates or payment amount. Although the effect sizes observed in this study were small, the potential impact is large given the number of delinquent businesses and the average amount of taxes owed in Pennsylvania.</p> 2020-07-12T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Evolution and egalitarianism: A behavioral account of managers' performance pay decisions 2020-07-15T03:05:34+00:00 John D. Marvel <p>I advance a behavioral account of managers’ performance pay decisions that is grounded in evolutionary psychology. In doing so, I seek to explain a common organizational phenomenon — compression in employees’ merit pay bonuses. My behavioral account puts forward two propositions. First, that compression in awards is a consequence of a fundamental human proclivity for egalitarianism. Second, that individual managers will differ in their preferences for egalitarianism: In any given organizational context, some managers will tend to be more egalitarian than other managers. Consistent with these propositions, I observe two clear patterns in how federal managers distribute performance pay awards to the group members they supervise. The first is a marked tendency for managers to give all group members awards of the same or similar size. The second is a considerable amount of between-manager variation in this tendency that cannot be explained by relevant group-level variables, such as group size and occupational diversity. To the extent feasible given my data, I probe whether my behavioral account does a better job explaining these patterns than plausible alternative explanations that are based in economics. One key implication of my theory and findings is that organizations cannot count on managers to aggressively differentiate between individual employees when they distribute performance pay awards. A second key implication is that organizations cannot rely on their managers to uniformly implement a given performance pay plan.</p> 2020-09-23T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Leaving home ain’t easy: Citizen compliance with local government hurricane evacuation orders 2020-05-27T03:30:43+00:00 Jennifer M. Connolly Casey Klofstad Joseph Uscinski <p>Although local officials often issue policy directives and urge residents to comply, many policy directives lack monitoring or enforcement mechanisms. Without strong enforcement mechanisms, how can public officials increase citizen cooperation? We examine this question in the context of hurricane evacuation orders. Do different communication frames impact public compliance with evacuation orders? Analyzing data on Florida residents, the results of a survey experiment show that respondents exposed to a statement lacking certainty were significantly less willing to evacuate than the control group, and other communication strategies-including describing incentives and potential enforcement mechanisms-had no impact on willingness to cooperate with an evacuation order. The results suggest that uncertain government messaging may decrease policy compliance in cases lacking strong enforcement mechanisms.</p> 2020-11-08T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Child care policy and child care burden: Policy feedback effects and distributive implications of regulatory decisions 2020-08-14T20:15:23+00:00 Adrienne Davidson Samantha Burns Linda White Delaine Hampton Michal Perlman <p>The policy feedback literature highlights that the design of public policies can affect recipients’ experience of those policies and programs. In this paper, we examine the largely unexplored distributional implications of market-based early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. We present the results of a quasi-behavioral conjoint survey of 606 parents in the City of Toronto. Grouping parent respondents by income and access to public subsidies, we find evidence that access to public subsidies influences the ECEC preferences of lower income parents. We explore these findings with respect to how non-subsidized lower income parents experience the market for ECEC. We find evidence that non-subsidized lower income parents are more cost-conscious; this is likely to result in their using less well-regulated ECEC that is more variable in quality. In turning to less well-regulated care, the burden of performing oversight and quality assessments falls on these parents. However, our study finds that lower income non-subsidized parents report the least engagement with learning about ECEC, suggesting that they are likely to be the least able to effectively monitor their children’s care arrangements. We explore the implications of these findings regarding the effects of policy on vulnerable children’s access to high quality ECEC services.</p> 2020-11-21T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Does city or state make a difference? The effects of policy framing on public attitude toward a solar energy program 2020-08-16T02:34:42+00:00 Chien-shih Huang Ruowen Shen <p>Replacing fossil fuel with solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is critical to the transition to renewable energy and thus a key feature of the contentious and often confusing policy debates surrounding climate change. Governments can frame such environmental issues in various ways, but consensus is lacking on whether economic or environmental benefits most effectively encourage pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, such as supporting PV technology. In this study, we introduce a moderator—psychological distance between citizens and policy outcomes—to elaborate this relation. Based on the federalism literature, we suggest that different levels of government, as the policy implementers, represent a sense of distance. The construal level theory (CLT) is adopted, and we hypothesize that the congruency between psychological distance and the construal level of policy outcomes will increase policy support and willingness to pay for solar PV installation. The results of survey experiments on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) offer partial support for our theoretical expectations and add new insights. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.</p> 2020-11-09T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 How to encourage “Togetherness by Keeping Apart” amid COVID-19? The ineffectiveness of prosocial and empathy appeals 2020-05-25T15:36:27+00:00 Nathan Favero Mogens Jin Pedersen <p>The COVID-19 pandemic is a major challenge facing societies around the world. Citizen engagement in “social distancing” is a key containment measure for curtailing the spread of the virus. But what kind of information should governments use for encouraging social distancing compliance? Using data from a pre-registered survey experiment among US residents (n = 1,502), we examine how five distinct COVID-19 information cues—which each appeal to prosocial motivation and empathy in varying degree—affect people’s willingness to social distance. We find no significant differences across experimental conditions in terms of (a) the duration that respondents are willing to maintain social distancing, (b) intended social distancing behavior, or (c) COVID-19-related attitudes and beliefs. Our findings should not necessarily discourage decision-makers from priming prosocial motivation and empathy as means for promoting social distancing, but they do suggest a current need for more engaging medium than simple textual messages for such appeals.</p> 2020-05-24T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Rallying around the flag in times of COVID-19: Societal lockdown and trust in democratic institutions 2020-07-13T16:33:20+00:00 Martin Baekgaard Julian Christensen Jonas Krogh Madsen Kim Sass Mikkelsen <p>In times of severe international crises, such as wars and terrorist attacks, citizens tend to ‘rally around the flag’ and increase their support for political leaders. We ask if the rallying effects identified in the literature extend to the societal lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19-related lockdowns differ from crises studied in the existing literature because they are political crisis responses with severe and immediate negative effects on the economy. Using daily responses right before and after the announcement of the Danish lockdown on March 11, 2020, we study trust in democratic institutions among unemployed Danes over the first three weeks of a large-scale societal lockdown. OLS estimates show that trust in the Danish Prime Minister’s administration was higher immediately after the lockdown announcement. This increase lasted throughout the entire period of measurement (until the end of March). We find similarly increased trust in other institutions, most significantly the judicial system and the public sector at large, whereas findings for trust in parliament and the media are less clear. Interrupted time series estimates point to the same conclusions albeit they produce estimates with more noise. Overall, our findings are consistent with the idea that citizens tend to ‘rally around the flag’ in times of crisis and furthermore suggest that increased trust tends to spill over to institutions that are not involved in crisis management decisions.</p> 2020-07-12T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Is self-reported social distancing susceptible to social desirability bias? Using the crosswise model to elicit sensitive behaviors 2020-08-18T17:19:01+00:00 Ulrich Thy Jensen <p>Sensitive behaviors such as self-reported performance or (un)ethical behaviors often carry strong social connotations of appropriate or inappropriate conduct. In return, social norms can artificially inflate or deflate individuals’ responses and bias scientific results on their prevalence and effects. As a core part of governments’ mitigation strategy against the outbreak of COVID-19, social distancing might represent one of these behaviors. Can researchers expect honest responses when surveying citizens about their social distancing behaviors? This question is examined using the sensitive survey technique, “the crosswise model”, to elicit aggregate-level prevalence estimates of (1) self-reported social distancing, and (2) honest reporting in a prediction dice game. Since the number of wins in the dice game follows a known probability distribution, it offers an excellent setting for illustrating the utility of the crosswise model before applying it to self-reported social distancing. In a survey of 1,059 adults living in the US, the crosswise model outperforms direct questioning in revealing respondents’ dishonest behavior in the dice game. While the crosswise model also indicates some social desirability bias when asking respondents directly about their social distancing behaviors, the extent of this bias seems small and does not appear to overtly inflate individuals’ self-reported measures of social distancing.</p> 2020-08-17T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Do Survey Estimates of the Public’s Compliance with COVID-19 Regulations Suffer from Social Desirability Bias? 2020-08-20T07:10:15+00:00 Martin Larsen Jacob Nyrup Michael Bang Petersen <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has led governments to instate a large number of restrictions on and recommendations for citizens’ behavior. One widely used tool for measuring compliance with these strictures are nationally representative surveys that ask citizens to self-report their behavior. But if respondents avoid disclosing socially undesirable behaviors, such as not complying with government strictures in a public health crisis, estimates of compliance will be biased upwards. To assess the magnitude of this problem, this study compares measures of compliance from direct questions to those estimated from list-experiments - a response technique that allows respondents to report illicit behaviors without individual-level detection. Implementing the list-experiment in two separate surveys of Danish citizens (n&gt;5,000), we find no evidence that citizens under-report non-compliant behavior. We therefore conclude that survey estimates of compliance with COVID-19 regulations do not suffer from social desirability bias.</p> 2020-08-24T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020 Partisan polarization and resistance to elite messages: Results from survey experiments on social distancing 2020-08-17T17:16:25+00:00 Syon P. Bhanot Daniel J. Hopkins <p>COVID-19 compelled government officials in the U.S. and elsewhere to institute social distancing policies, shuttering much of the economy. At a time of low trust and high polarization, Americans may only support such disruptive policies when recommended by same-party politicians. A related concern is that some may resist advice from “elite” sources such as government officials or public health experts. We test these possibilities using novel data from two online surveys with embedded experiments conducted with approximately 2,000 Pennsylvania residents each, in spring 2020 (Study 1 in April and Study 2 in May-June). We uncover partisan differences in views on several coronavirus-related policies, which grew larger between surveys. Yet overall, Study 1 respondents report strong support for social distancing policies and high trust in medical experts. Moreover, an experiment in Study 1 finds no evidence of reduced support for social distancing policies when advocated by elites, broadly defined. A second experiment in Study 2 finds no backlash for a policy described as being backed by public health experts, but a cross-party decline in support for the same policy when backed by government officials. This suggests that, in polarized times, public health experts might be better advocates for collectively beneficial public policies during public health crises than government officials.</p> 2020-08-17T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2020