The Workforce Capacity of the United States Bureaucracy, 1998-2020
66 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2021
Date Written: December 16, 2021
The Trump Administration's vow to deconstruct the administrative state has renewed scholars' interest in the workforce capacity of the bureaucracy. Yet the lack of measures of workforce capacity impedes scientific progress. I estimate 5,505 workforce-capacity scores for 272 unique agencies from 1998 to 2020 using 190 million federal-personnel files and Bayesian estimation. Examining trends across presidential administrations, I find remarkable stability in workforce capacity. Although workforce capacity has ebbed and flowed in some cases, most agencies have enjoyed modest growth—even during the Trump Administration. I use these measures to test longstanding theories about the relationship between bureaucratic autonomy and capacity. On average, agencies with higher levels of independence exhibit higher levels of workforce capacity. However, increased politicization within an agency reduces workforce capacity. I conclude with a discussion about how researchers may extend these measures in the future and how institutional changes may have long-term consequences for bureaucratic capacity.
Keywords: Bureaucratic Politics, Civil Service, Politicization, Independent Agencies, Bureaucratic Capacity
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