Transparency by Conformity: A Field Experiment Evaluating Openness in Local Governments
Public Administration Review, Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 2 May 2016
Date Written: April 30, 2016
Sunshine laws establishing government transparency are ubiquitous in the United States; however, the intended degree of openness is often unclear or unrealized. Although researchers have identified characteristics of government organizations or officials that affect the fulfillment of public records requests, they have not considered the influence that government organizations have on each other. This picture of independently acting organizations does not accord with the literature on diffusion in public policy and administration. In this article, we present a field experiment to test whether a county government's fulfillment of a public records request is influenced by the knowledge that its peers have already complied. We argue that knowledge of peer compliance should (1) induce competitive pressures to comply and (2) resolve legal ambiguity in favor of compliance. We find evidence of peer conformity effects both in the time to initial response and in the rate of complete request fulfillment.
Keywords: Transparency, Public Records, Local Government, Field Experiment, Peer Effects
JEL Classification: D73, C93
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation