Principals, bureaucrats, and responsiveness in clean air enforcements. Academic Article uri icon


  • A principal-agent perspective has been employed in recent studies to rediscover the importance of democratic hierarchies in shaping public bureaucratic outputs. I test the robustness of the hierarchy model for explaining outputs from an agency that has often been cast in the image of bureaucratic independence, the Environmental Protection Agency. Examining the effect of the Reagan presidency on EPA outputs for clean air, Box-Tiao models are constructed to explain shifts in the vigor of air pollution enforcements between 1977 and 1985. The analysis shows that the influence of elected institutions is limited when an agency has substantial bureaucratic resources and a zeal for their use. Moreover, under these conditions, bureaucracy can even move outputs in directions completely opposite from what a model of hierarchy would predict. The implication is that for some agencies it is necessary to give greater consideration to the agent in explaining implementation outcomes through time.

published proceedings

  • Am Polit Sci Rev

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Wood, B. D.

citation count

  • 205

complete list of authors

  • Wood, BD

publication date

  • March 1988