Representative Bureaucracy and Government Contracting: A Further Examination of Evidence from Federal Agencies

Source: Benjamin M Brunjes and J Edward Kellough, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, June 2018

The theory of representative bureaucracy holds that demographic characteristics of public managers influence policy design and implementation, but only a few studies have been conducted on the impact of representative bureaucracy on contract decisions. This paper contributes to that work by examining the relationship between minority representation in federal agencies and the awarding of agency contracts to minority-owned businesses. Using federal-level employment and contracting data, we determine that variables measuring minority representation overall, the presence of college-educated minorities, and minorities in certain positions related to contract decision-making are all positively correlated with increased numbers of contracts going to minority-owned firms. Our findings build on earlier work and provide additional support for the importance of the theory of representative bureaucracy in a governance system where contracting is common.

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