Trading Speed for Accuracy? Managing Goal Conflict and Accommodation in the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Program

Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 175-198, May 2008

42 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2011

See all articles by Jeffrey B. Wenger

Jeffrey B. Wenger

RAND Corporation; American University - School of Public Affairs

Laurence J. O'Toole

University of Georgia - Department of Public Administration and Policy

Kenneth J. Meier

American University; Cardiff University; Leiden University - Institute of Public Administration

Date Written: October 15, 2007

Abstract

Public managers must often cope with competing and conflicting goals. The common formulation is to assume that managers must trade off goals against each other. But is this always true? An alternative hypothesis is that sometimes managers may instead be able to improve outcomes on multiple goals simultaneously – by altering management practices. We test this “tradeoff” notion using a panel of state-level administrative data from the US unemployment insurance (UI) system from 1997 to 2004 and qualitative interviews from selected states. The tradeoff examined is timeliness of UI benefit payments versus the quality of UI determinations. In general, we find that state administrators often adopt management practices that facilitate improved outcomes for both timeliness and quality, indicating no tradeoff but instead a synergy between outcomes. We also find evidence of a feedback effect linking higher performance on timeliness to better quality determinations.

Keywords: unemployment, administration, goal ambiguity, goal conflict

Suggested Citation

Wenger, Jeffrey B. and O'Toole, Laurence J. and Meier, Kenneth J., Trading Speed for Accuracy? Managing Goal Conflict and Accommodation in the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Program (October 15, 2007). Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 175-198, May 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1940466

Jeffrey B. Wenger (Contact Author)

RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
United States
310 393 0411 (Phone)

American University - School of Public Affairs ( email )

Washington, DC 20016
United States

Laurence J. O'Toole

University of Georgia - Department of Public Administration and Policy ( email )

Athens, GA 30602
United States

Kenneth J. Meier

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Cardiff University ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, Wales CF10 3EU
United Kingdom

Leiden University - Institute of Public Administration ( email )

P.O. Box 13228
Den Haag, 2501 EE
Netherlands

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