Working Papers

Mai Hassan, Horacio Larreguy, and Stuart Russell. “Who Gets Hired? Political Patronage and Bureaucratic Favoritism.”

Most research on hiring in the public sector highlights the incentives of local politicians to distribute government positions to partisan supporters or clientelistic brokers. Other  studies separately point to the role of high-ranking bureaucratic managers in allocating government jobs to close contacts. We jointly consider these sources of biased hiring by conceptualizing the relative importance of political patronage versus bureaucratic favoritism as a bargaining problem between politicians and bureaucratic managers who have different incentives regarding public sector hiring and different abilities to realize their priorities. We examine the theory by collecting the universe of payroll data in Kenyan local governments from 2004 to 2013, resulting in a dataset of 168,537 person-years. We find evidence of both patronage and bureaucratic favoritism, but as theorized, these different types of bias are concentrated in different kinds of government jobs. Together, this paper suggests the inadequacy of examining political patronage alone without incorporating the preferences and bargaining power of the bureaucratic managers who are intricately involved in hiring processes. (link)