Managing Street-Level Arbitrariness: The Evidence Base for Public Sector Quality Improvement

Posted: 26 Oct 2017

See all articles by Daniel E. Ho

Daniel E. Ho

Stanford Law School

Sam Sherman

Stanford University - Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Date Written: October 2017

Abstract

Decentralized decisions among government officials can cause dramatic inconsistencies in bureaucratic decision making. This article provides a synthetic review of the evidence base for improving the quality of bureaucratic decisions and reducing such street-level arbitrariness. First, we offer a typology to unify quality assurance management techniques often treated in distinct scholarly literatures. This synthesis reveals common challenges but also points to novel hybrid solutions that borrow across management techniques. Second, although empirical evidence is limited, our review suggests that ongoing management techniques, such as monitoring, peer review, and pay-for-performance, are more successful than ex post techniques, such as audits and appeals. Third, performance measurement and pay exacerbate the quantity–quality trade-off long opined about in public administration. We offer suggestions for future directions—most importantly, the vital role of academic-agency research collaborations in crafting quality improvement efforts—to address this endemic challenge to bureaucracy and rule of law.

Suggested Citation

Ho, Daniel E. and Sherman, Sam, Managing Street-Level Arbitrariness: The Evidence Base for Public Sector Quality Improvement (October 2017). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 13, pp. 251-272, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3059662 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110316-113608

Daniel E. Ho (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-9560 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://dho.stanford.edu

Sam Sherman

Stanford University - Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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