Citizen Monitoring and Bureaucratic Output: Evidence from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
with Thomas Stratmann
We model and empirically test the effects of citizen monitoring on services provided by bureaucrats. Monitoring by citizens is a public good. Because of collective action problems, monitoring is underprovided, allowing bureaucrats to shirk efforts to provide services. Our model shows that collective action problems in monitoring activities are associated with sub-optimal bureaucratic output. Bureaucratic output is predicted to change with the number of citizens affected and the distribution of bureaucracy-generated benefits. Utilizing income data from leases under the purview of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), we find broad support for our hypothesis that bureaucratic output is inversely related to collective action challenges of bureaucrats’ clients. These collective action problems vary with the number of owners, interests of the largest shareholder, and variations in monitoring costs due to private vs. institutional ownership.