Attention, Institutional Friction, and Policy Change in U.S. Federal Bureaucracies
17 Pages Posted: 2 May 2017
Date Written: April 12, 2017
This manuscript examines the dynamics of policy change in the U.S. federal bureaucracy. Existing theories of policy change, especially punctuated equilibrium, suggest limited attention and institutional friction as key drivers of punctuated policy change. Yet, scholars have not addressed the relative importance of these factors in leading to the punctuated dynamics associated with the theory. Furthermore, these sources of punctuated policymaking have not been examined alongside theories of delegation and centralization common in the study of American politics. This manuscript uses the considerable institutional variation in the bureaucracy to assess the relative influence of limited attention, institutional friction, and delegation on the dynamics of policy change. The empirical foundation for the analysis is a new data set on the regulatory agenda containing 63,289 agenda items from 2008–2016. The findings demonstrate the differential impacts of limited attention, institutional structure, and delegation on the dynamics of policy change. The findings also highlight the central role of institutional design in policy change, institutional information processing, and agenda setting.
Keywords: Bureaucracy, Regulation, Public Policy, Agenda Setting, Delegation, Institutions
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