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Microfoundations of active representation in public bureaucracies: evidence from a survey of personnel recruitment in the swiss federal civil service


Zwicky, Roman; Kübler, Daniel (2019). Microfoundations of active representation in public bureaucracies: evidence from a survey of personnel recruitment in the swiss federal civil service. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 29(1):50-66.

Abstract

This article investigates the link between passive (descriptive) and active (substantive) representation in public bureaucracies. Previous studies on this topic mostly focused on the US context, where race and gender are the most salient aspects of bureaucratic representation. In Switzerland, representation of the various cultural communities in the federal bureaucracy is the most salient issue. Active representation is operationalized as administrators’ preferences for minority origin, as well as for skills in minority languages when selecting candidates in personnel recruitment processes. We use a structural equation model to analyze individual-level data from a survey of administrators in the Swiss federal civil service. Findings are that passive representation fosters active representation not only at the level of individual bureaucrats, but also at the level of the agencies as the main bureaucratic work environment. Moreover, we find that effects of passive on active representation are not direct but mediated by administrators’ sensitivity to issues related to minority representation. Sensitivity to minority conditions therefore appears as the main microfoundation for active representation of minority interest, and as a core explanatory factor for active representation outside of demographic congruence.

Abstract

This article investigates the link between passive (descriptive) and active (substantive) representation in public bureaucracies. Previous studies on this topic mostly focused on the US context, where race and gender are the most salient aspects of bureaucratic representation. In Switzerland, representation of the various cultural communities in the federal bureaucracy is the most salient issue. Active representation is operationalized as administrators’ preferences for minority origin, as well as for skills in minority languages when selecting candidates in personnel recruitment processes. We use a structural equation model to analyze individual-level data from a survey of administrators in the Swiss federal civil service. Findings are that passive representation fosters active representation not only at the level of individual bureaucrats, but also at the level of the agencies as the main bureaucratic work environment. Moreover, we find that effects of passive on active representation are not direct but mediated by administrators’ sensitivity to issues related to minority representation. Sensitivity to minority conditions therefore appears as the main microfoundation for active representation of minority interest, and as a core explanatory factor for active representation outside of demographic congruence.

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Additional indexing

Other titles:Micro-foundations of active representation in public bureaucracies: evidence from a survey of personnel recruitment in the swiss federal civil service
Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Social Sciences & Humanities > Public Administration
Social Sciences & Humanities > Marketing
Uncontrolled Keywords:marketing, sociology and political science, public administration
Language:English
Date:2 January 2019
Deposited On:08 Jan 2019 12:46
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 08:56
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1053-1858
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muy055

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