Selecting Top Bureaucrats: Admission Exams and Performance in Brazil
42 Pages Posted: 21 May 2020
Date Written: April 24, 2020
In the absence of strong incentive schemes, public service delivery crucially depends on bureaucrat selection. Despite being widely adopted by governments to screen candidates, it is unclear whether civil service examinations can predict job performance. This paper investigates this question by focusing on a highly prestigious and influential set of bureaucrats in Brazil: state judges. We first explore data on judges' monthly output and cross-court movement to separately identify what share of observed performance is explained by judges and courts. We estimate that judges account for at least 23% of the observed variation in the number of cases disposed. Using a novel data set on examinations, we then show that, within cohorts of candidates taking the same exam, those with higher grades perform better than their lower-ranked peers. Our results suggest that competitive examinations can be an effective way to screen candidates, even among highly qualified contenders.
Keywords: Bureaucrat selection, judicial performance, organizational economics
JEL Classification: D73, J45, M50
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