Author Archives: afscme

Union Membership Byte 2020

Source: Hayley Brown and Hye Jin Rho, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), January 22, 2019

From the abstract:
CEPR’s annual Union Membership Byte gives an in-depth analysis of union membership by sector, gender, race, ethnicity, age, education, nativity, industry, occupation, and by state (including the District of Columbia). The decline in Black union membership stood out amid declines in overall unionization rates in both the private and public sectors. The overall union membership rate fell to 10.3 percent, dropping by 0.2 percentage points between 2018 and 2019. This represents a loss of 170,000 union jobs. The union membership rates for both private and public sector workers fell for two consecutive years. These reductions reflect a downward trend that has persisted over the last several decades in the US. Although Black workers remain the most heavily unionized racial group at 11.2 percent, they experienced the largest decline in membership in 2019, losing 215,000 members. In comparison, unionization rates for whites fell to 10.3 percent, Hispanics fell to 8.9 percent, while Asian unionization rates rose to 8.8 percent.

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Does Administrative Burden Influence Public Support for Government Programs? Evidence from a Survey Experiment

Source: Lael R. Keiser, Susan M. Miller, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Research indicates that administrative burden influences the behaviors and views of clients and potential clients of government programs. However, administrative burden may also shape mass attitudes toward government programs. Taking a behavioral public administration approach, the authors consider whether and how exposure to information about administrative burden embedded within eligibility‐based programs influences citizen favorability toward those programs. It is hypothesized that if information about the existing screening mechanisms is highlighted and made salient, this will lead to greater approval of eligibility‐based programs. This expectation is evaluated using a survey experiment that explores administrative burden in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The evidence shows that being exposed to information about administrative burden increases favorability toward TANF and its recipients, though these effects are conditional on party identification. The results provide insight into a potential consequence of administrative burden, showing the way in which information regarding burden can shape citizens’ support for eligibility‐based programs.

Evidence for Practice
– Public managers in social welfare programs face challenges in gaining public support because of the stigma associated with these programs.
– The evidence suggests that giving the public information about program screening improves views toward welfare programs.
– Increasing awareness about program screening processes may be beneficial. However, public officials should consider potential trade‐offs, such as discouraging applications.

Administrative Easing: Rule Reduction and Medicaid Enrollment

Source: Ashley M. Fox, Edmund C. Stazyk, Wenhui Feng, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Administrative burden is widely recognized as a barrier to program enrollment, denying legal entitlements to many potentially eligible individuals. Building on recent research in behavioral public administration, this article examines the effect of voluntary state reductions in administrative burden (administrative easing) on Medicaid enrollment rates using differential implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Using a novel data set that includes state‐level data on simplified enrollment and renewal procedures for Medicaid from 2008 to 2017, the authors examine how change in Medicaid enrollment is conditioned by the adoption of rule‐reduction procedures. Findings show that reductions in the administrative burden required to sign up for Medicaid were associated with increased enrollments. Real‐time eligibility and reductions in enrollment burden were particularly impactful at increasing enrollment for both children and adults separate from increases in Medicaid income eligibility thresholds. The results suggest that efforts to ease the cognitive burden of enrolling in entitlement programs can improve take‐up.

Evidence for Practice
– The administrative burden associated with enrolling in social safety net programs in the United States imposes high costs on applicants. As a consequence, many eligible individuals do not receive the benefits that they are lawfully entitled to.
– Insights from behavioral economics, including streamlining of the enrollment process and automated benefit determinations, can be effectively employed—in some cases—to reduce the cognitive burden associated with program enrollment processes and increase take‐up of benefits.
– States that have implemented simple changes to enrollment processes, including administrative verification of income and real‐time decision‐making, have seen greater increases in Medicaid enrollments than those that did not implement such changes.

Thick Red Tape and the Thin Blue Line: A Field Study on Reducing Administrative Burden in Police Recruitment

Source: Elizabeth Linos, Nefara Riesch, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Police departments struggle to recruit officers, and voluntary drop‐off of candidates exacerbates this challenge. Using four years of administrative data and a field experiment conducted in the Los Angeles Police Department, the authors analyze the impact of administrative burden on the likelihood that a candidate will remain in the recruitment process. Findings show that reducing friction costs to participation and simplifying processes improve compliance, as behavioral public administration would predict. Applicants who were offered simpler, standardized processes completed more tests and were more likely to be hired. Later reductions to perceived burden led to an 8 percent increase in compliance, with a 60 percent increase in compliance within two weeks. However, removing steps that would have allowed for better understanding of eligibility kept unqualified candidates in the process for longer, reducing organizational efficiency. These results extend the field’s understanding of how administrative burden can impact the selection of talent into government.

Evidence for Practice
– Simplifying recruitment processes is associated with a reduction in voluntary drop‐offs in police recruitment.
– Removing stages in the process that allow for better self‐evaluation may increase learning costs, shifting unqualified candidates to later stages in the selection process.
– Participation in expedited testing, in which applicants can complete more than one assessment per day, is correlated with higher persistence through the recruitment process and higher applicant quality.

Why Public Employees Rebel: Guerrilla Government in the Public Sector

Source: Gary E. Hollibaugh Jr., Matthew R. Miles, Chad B. Newswander, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Employee recalcitrance and employer reprisal are ever‐present conditions in public service. Yet we have limited knowledge of the forces that move administrators away from acquiescence and toward antagonism. The authors follow the theoretical thrust of behavioral public administration to better understand administrative behavior by targeting the determinants of guerrilla government actions. They do so by presenting the results of a conjoint experiment embedded in a survey of federal bureaucrats. Findings show that decisions to pursue guerrilla activities are conditional on a multitude of factors—namely, the bureaucrat’s personal views of the directive as a policy solution, the compatibility of the directive with the bureaucrat’s ethical framework, the status of the person issuing the directive, and the probability that the directive might cause harm to others. Notably, these decisions generally are not affected by the probability of retribution or the expected type thereof. However, they are affected by the magnitude of harm that may ensue if orders are obeyed and not resisted.

Evidence for Practice
– Ethics matter. When employees see that a policy might contribute to considerable human suffering, the likelihood of guerrilla government activities (“the actions taken by career public servants who work against the wishes—either implicitly or explicitly communicated—of their superiors”) increases.
– Managers should seek to persuade employees of the moral fabric of their decisions, which is one option that may curtail guerrilla government behaviors.
– Managers should be aware that the probability of punishing employees does not significantly deter their acts of guerrilla government.
– Managers should also be aware that the type of retribution employees may suffer does not significantly deter their decision to engage in guerrilla activities.

Taxation by Citation? Exploring Local Governments’ Revenue Motive for Traffic Fines

Source: Min Su, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Anecdotal evidence suggests that local governments may have a revenue motive for traffic fines, beyond public safety concerns. Using California’s county‐level data over a 12‐year period, this article shows that counties increased per capita traffic fines by 40 to 42 cents immediately after a 10 percentage point tax revenue loss in the previous year; however, these counties did not reduce traffic fines if they experienced a tax revenue increase in the previous year. This finding indicates that county governments probably view traffic fines as a revenue source to offset tax revenue loss, but not as a revenue stabilizer to manage revenue fluctuation. This article also finds that low‐income and Hispanic‐majority counties raised more traffic fines. Counties that generated more revenue from the hotel tax—a tax typically paid by travelers and visitors—raised more traffic fines, indicating a possible tax‐exporting behavior by shifting the traffic fine burden to nonlocal drivers.

Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy

Source: Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School, January 2020

From the summary:
Since the founding of the country, concentration of power in the hands of a small minority has been recognized as a threat to the viability of American democracy. Today, the struggle to preserve democracy in the face of extreme wealth concentration is acute because we live in a historical moment when vast disparities of economic power have been translated into equally shocking disparities in political power.

With this report, we offer an intervention that promises to help stop the self-reinforcing cycle of economic and political inequality. By proposing a fundamental redesign of labor law, our aspiration is to enable all working people – including those who have been excluded by systemic racism and sexism – to create the collective economic and political power necessary to build an equitable economy and politics.

Inclusiveness
Labor law reform should expand protections of the law to address systemic racial and gender oppression.

Universal Representation
Pathways to worker power should track corporate power and be universal, providing multiple forms of voice for all workers without employer interference.

Sectoral Bargaining
We recommend creating a system of sectoral bargaining in which agreements are binding on all firms in the sector.

Employees’ Refusals to Participate in an Employer-Sponsored Wellness Program: Barriers and Benefits to Engagement

Source: Evan K. Perrault, Grace M. Hildenbrand, Rachel HeeJoon Rnoh, OnlineFirst Published January 7, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While worksite wellness programs are generally designed to help employees realize better overall health, some employees may not see them in that light. The current study sought to better understand why employees refuse to participate in a new employer-sponsored wellness program. This study also investigated how participation in the program is related to employees’ self-perceived health, efficacy to be healthier and their perceptions toward their organization providing useful resources to engage in a healthy lifestyle. A survey of more than 1,500 employees at a large Midwest organization was conducted after their annual open-enrollment period. Open-ended responses from participants refusing to participate in the wellness program (n = 297) indicated privacy considerations as their primary concern. They also thought participation would take too much time, conceptually thought the program was unfair or not useful and felt they were already healthy and not in need of the program. Both participants and nonparticipants had no differences in self-perceived overall health. However, participants had greater self-efficacy, and perceptions that their employer offered useful resources to engage in a healthy lifestyle, than nonparticipants. Recommendations for communicating new wellness programs to employees are discussed.

Getting In, Getting Hired, Getting Sideways Looks: Organizational Hierarchy and Perceptions of Racial Discrimination

Source: Adia Harvey Wingfield, Koji Chavez, OnlineFirst, Published January 2, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article argues that black workers’ perceptions of racial discrimination derive not just from being in the minority, but also from their position in the organizational structure. Researchers have shown that black individuals encounter an enormous amount of racial discrimination in the workplace, including but not limited to exclusion from critical social networks, wage disparities, and hiring disadvantages. But fewer studies examine the extent to which black workers believe racial discrimination is a salient factor in their occupational mobility or the factors that might explain their divergent perceptions of racial discrimination. Based on 60 in-depth interviews with black medical doctors, nurses, and technicians in the healthcare industry, we show that black workers’ status within an organizational hierarchy fundamentally informs perceptions of the nature and type of workplace racial discrimination. These findings have implications for understanding how racial dynamics at work are linked to mental health, occupational satisfaction, and organizational change.

Why is the American South Poorer?

Source: Regina S Baker, Social Forces, Advance Access, December 12 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While American poverty research has devoted greater attention to poverty in the Northeast and Midwest, poverty has been persistently higher in the U.S. South than in the other regions. Thus, this study investigates the enduring question of why poverty is higher in the South. Specifically, it demonstrates the role of power resources as an explanation for this regional disparity, yet also considers family demography, economic structure, and racial/ethnic heterogeneity. Using six waves (2000–2016) of U.S. Census Current Population Survey data from the Luxembourg Income Study (N = 1,157,914), this study employs a triangulation of analytic techniques: (1) tests of means and proportion differences, (2) multilevel linear probability models of poverty, and (3) binary decomposition of the South/non-South poverty gap. The comparison of means associated with the power resource hypothesis yields the largest substantive differences between the South and the non-South. In the multilevel models, adjusting for power resources yields the largest declines in the South coefficient. Binary decomposition results indicate power resources are the second most influential factor explaining the South/non-South poverty gap. Overall, power resources are an important source of the South/non-South poverty gap, though economic structure and other factors certainly also play a role. Results also suggest an important interplay between power resources and race. Altogether, these results underscore the importance of macrolevel characteristics of places, including political and economic contexts, in shaping individual poverty and overall patterns of inequality.