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Activating the ‘Big Man’: Social Status, Patronage Networks and Pro-Social Behavior in African Bureaucracies

Harris, Adam S; Meyer-Sahling, Jan-Hinrik; Mikkelsen, Kim Sass; Schuster, Christian; (2022) Activating the ‘Big Man’: Social Status, Patronage Networks and Pro-Social Behavior in African Bureaucracies. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory , Article muac009. 10.1093/jopart/muac009. (In press).

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Abstract

Public service delivery by African states is often characterized as particularist, favoring ethnic, personal or political networks of those inside the state over universalist, pro-social services to citizens. One explanation for particularist service delivery focuses on societal patronage norms, with “Big Men” providing for members of their networks. Despite the prominence of this line of reasoning and the anecdotal prevalence of “Big Men” in politics and society, hardly any research has quantitatively assessed the effects of “big man” governance inside the state. Through a behavioral experiment with over 1,300 Ugandan bureaucrats, our article seeks to address this gap. In the experiment, we find that activating social status—that is, “big man” status—in bureaucrats embedded in patronage networks significantly curbs their pro-social behavior. Our article contributes an important empirical micro-foundation to help explain one cause of limited universal service delivery by bureaucrats.

Type: Article
Title: Activating the ‘Big Man’: Social Status, Patronage Networks and Pro-Social Behavior in African Bureaucracies
DOI: 10.1093/jopart/muac009
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muac009
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10144116
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