Human Capital and Administrative Burden: The Role of Cognitive Resources in Citizen-State Interactions
Forthcoming, Public Administration Review
39 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2019
Date Written: November 1, 2019
One means by which the state reinforces inequality is by imposing administrative burdens that loom larger for citizens with lower levels of human capital. Integrating insights from various disciplines, we focus on one aspect of human capital, cognitive resources. We outline a model that explains how burdens and cognitive resources, especially executive functioning, interrelate. We then provide illustrative examples, by highlighting three common life factors – scarcity, health problems, and age-related cognitive decline. These factors create a human capital Catch-22, increasing people’s likelihood of needing state assistance while simultaneously undermining the cognitive resources required to negotiate the burdens they encounter while seeking such assistance. The result is to reduce access to state benefits and increase inequality. We conclude by calling for scholars of behavioral public administration and public administration more generally to incorporate more attention to human capital into their research.
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