job market paper

Electoral Turnover and Government Efficiency: Evidence from Federal Procurement, Under Review
[paper] [appendix]

Conventional accounts suggest that executive agencies expecting their power to wane due to electoral turnover have incentives to insulate their preferred policies through cumbersome and inefficient bureaucratic procedures. This argument is premised on an assumption that future adversaries controlling Congress or executive branch will find it difficult or impossible to overturn those policies via formal means. But in numerous policy areas, Congress have informal means at their disposal to do so that are far easier to implement. In those cases, agencies facing the threat of electoral turnover may find it in their interest to craft their policies to reflect the future Congress’s preference so that their moderated policies survive after the congressional turnover. To the extent that those future Congresses care about government performance, this incentive to moderate can enhance efficiency, especially if agencies would have preferred inefficient particularistic policies in the absence of any threat to their political dominance.

I evaluate these incentives in the context of the federal procurement, where politicized agencies under unified government may provide non-competitive, higher-cost contracts to firms politically connected to the president in the absence of any threat to their political dominance. Using data on over 10 million federal contracts and exploiting short-term price changes in election prediction markets, I find that as the probability of congressional turnover increases, agencies under unified government are more likely to award lower-cost contracts through competitive bidding. Consistent with my theory, this shift in behavior is more prominent in industries where agencies expect contracts to be overturned by the future Congress: Where a high proportion of the president’s connected firms compete for procurement and where these connected firms are relatively inefficient. My findings challenge the dominant perspective that electoral turnover necessarily degrades bureaucratic performance.

peer-reviewed articles

  1. with Hye Young You. 2022. ``Bureaucratic Revolving Doors and Interest Group Participation in Policymaking.’’ Forthcoming, Journal of Politics.
    [journal] [pre-print] [appendix]
    *Winner of the Founders Best Paper Award Honoring Bert Rockman in the President and Executive Politics Section at 2021 APSA

working papers

  1. Revolving Door Regulators

  2. Bureaucratic Delays and Organized Interests of the Losers: The Case of Local Petition Delays in Trade Adjustment Assistance
    [paper] [appendix]

work in progress

  1. Fiscal Crisis and Gender Pay Gap in Bureaucracy (with Elisa Wirsching and Hye Young You )