Understanding Burdens : On the Construction, Reduction, and Consequences of Administrative Burden
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Administrative burden, representative bureaucracy, identity politics, e-government, welfare administration
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This dissertation sets out to specifically examine how administrative burden is constructed, how administrative burden is reduced, and the consequences of administrative burden. This exploration is of consequence to the discipline insofar as it provides empirical evidence of the crucial role that public administration has to play in advancing democracy and democratic institutions (Ziblatt and Levitsky, 2018). Administrative burdens have social equity implications (Herd and Moynihan, 2018). By fettering access to social services or government programs, burdens have the ability to impede democratic activities thereby fettering democratic outcomes. This makes it important to study burdens in this context especially given that public administration is expected to produce these democratic values and outcomes that burdens often fetter. Burden is a venue where politics has considerable influence (Herd and Moynihan, 2018) and so the scholarship should be improved to remain abreast with these consequential effects that politics may have on the practice of public administration but also on the lives of those being served by public administrators.
I extend these arguments and claim that the effect that politics have on burden is strong enough to affect the burden-reducing effect of even politically neutral tools such as e-government. More specifically, I argue that burdens on welfare are more likely to thrive under fiscally conservative political ideologies. I go further to argue that representative bureaucracy and identity politics shape perceptions of burden. More specifically, persons will be more likely to tolerate burdens when they are being served by bureaucrats who look like them (racially), or when programs are designed to benefit persons who look like them (racially). Finally, I advance a claim that despite the nuanced ways in which burdens unfold in the business context, excessive burdens will deplete entrepreneurial activity, thereby shafting entrepreneurial culture within economies. I also argue that motivated entrepreneurs are able to stave off the debilitating effects of burdens.
This dissertation uses three empirical essays to answer the aforementioned research questions. A mixture of micro level and macro level data were used to answer these questions. The dissertation draws upon two panel-data studies and an experimental study, supported by the application of regression analysis. The results confirm the previously held hypothesis that administrative burden is a political venue and that burden-reducing tools such as e-government are also affected by politics. While no evidence was found to support my claims on representative bureaucracy and identity politics, I find that whites are more likely to tolerate burdens in cases where black recipients are being served by white bureaucrats. This signals the presence of white paternalism operating in the context of administrative burden, but there is need for deeper exploration. Burdens do have consequences for businesses as the findings show that burdens reduce entrepreneurial activity, which further depletes entrepreneurial culture. More positively, the findings suggest that motivation is a burden-tolerating force. When entrepreneurs are highly motivated, burdens will be less likely to reduce entrepreneurial activity.
Taken together, these findings contribute to the practice of public administration by improving our knowledge/understanding on the ways that the actions of bureaucrats affect citizens access to their governments. A methodical contribution is also to be found in the use of different datasets, different levels (micro, macro) of data and different statistical methods to answer the research questions. Exposing study participants to actual burdensome conditions is an approach to measuring burdens that are novel to the burden scholarship. Finally, a theoretical contribution emerges from intersecting streams of research that were largely disconnected in the literature previously. Intersecting the streams of research from public administration, e-services, and business management enriched the literature in the process of creating new knowledge.
Previously Published In
Johnson, D., & Kroll, A. (2020). What makes us tolerant of administrative burden? race, representation, and identity. Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, 4(1), 1–9.
Johnson, Donavon, "Understanding Burdens : On the Construction, Reduction, and Consequences of Administrative Burden" (2021). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4824.
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